This study examines older people's homelessness in Australia, with a particular focus on the experience of becoming homeless for the first time in later life. The study seeks to gain a national understanding of older people's homelessness and to inform prevention strategies by drawing on interventions undertaken in a range of geographically and socially diverse locations across Australia. The research is partnered with Assistance with Care and Housing for the Aged (ACHA) agencies throughout Australia. This program, currently funded through the federal Department of Social Services (previously funded by the Department of Health and Ageing) and operating through community and government agencies, is purposively designed to assist disadvantaged older people who are at risk of homelessness or are homeless. It aims to facilitate their ongoing independence within the community by facilitating access to appropriate and affordable housing and by linking older people where appropriate to community care and support services. This practice model corresponds strongly to contemporary homelessness prevention practice. The paradigm of housing alongside appropriate supports underpins the ACHA program and thus provides not only a specialised focus on vulnerable older people but also a link with contemporary homelessness initiatives. There has been longstanding criticism of a lack of attention to older people's homelessness. However, in Australia there has been increasing recognition of this distinctive form of social exclusion. Leading on from recommendations in the Australian Government's 'White Paper' on homelessness (FaHCSIA 2008), legislative changes to the Aged Care Act 1997 identify older people experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless (Part 2.2, Section 11-3) as a special needs group that receive priority access to residential aged care. In addition, there has been funding of specialised aged care facilities that provide care for formerly homeless people who have complex health needs. Of particular importance is the acknowledgement of homelessness in the aged care reform package, Living longer. Living better. (DoHA 2012), which has resulted in increased funding for outreach services to older people in housing crisis in rural areas. This initiative signals a clear recognition that housing is an aged care issue. Historically, with the exception of the small ACHA program, Australia's housing and ageing portfolios have operated separately. There have been consistent calls by gerontologists that housing and ageing policy need to be coupled. The homelessness policy attention has largely focused on older people who live with a range of complex care needs linked to their homeless history where independent housing is not seen as appropriate. There is also a clear need to consider older people experiencing homelessness for the first time in their later years in the policy arena. Notwithstanding the significant and growing numbers of older people experiencing either first time homelessness or housing crises in later life, there is little empirical evidence about the nature of the problem in Australia and the drivers of first time homelessness among older people nationally. In the absence of a national evidence base there are limitations in the capacity to achieve homelessness prevention objectives for this group. Research aims: This study aims to contribute to the evidence base about homelessness prevention for older people experiencing homelessness or housing crises in later life. Building on the existing evidence drawn primarily from Australia's two largest capital cities, Sydney and Melbourne, this study examines older people's homelessness and preventive strategies in geographically, culturally and economically diverse areas of Australia. It draws on new empirical material gathered in five Australian states and across 31 agencies working with older people in housing need. Specifically, the study undertook to: → Review Australia's knowledge of older people's homelessness in the context of international literature. Consideration of the research literature in Australia and other western countries provides an understanding not only of the living circumstances of vulnerable older people but also the distinctive characteristics of homelessness as it is experienced by older people. In particular, the pattern of long-term and first time homelessness is highlighted as a theme in the literature. → Consider insights from gerontology. In particular, the frameworks of life course theory-our rich knowledge of the role of home and place and their integral nature to older people's wellbeing, and agency or the purposive actions of older people in managing their lives-are discussed. This discussion seeks to build recognition of older people's homelessness within gerontology. Social gerontology is rich in understandings of older people's living environments and the circumstances of older people experiencing disadvantage and deprivation. These insights are important to homelessness scholarship and provide important conceptual guidance. This discussion is then linked to homelessness prevention. It is argued that homelessness prevention needs to be tailored to the diverse and complex nature of exclusion as it is experienced by older Australians. → Empirically seek an understanding of older people's homelessness across a range of locales in Australia. In partnership with ACHA agencies the research involved two phases data-mining and semi-structured interviews. Client records were mined for three months at the end of 2012 providing quantitative and qualitative data on 561 older people in housing crisis. The material gained included demographic data, housing history, critical housing incident and living arrangements. In conjunction, interviews with 20 ACHA workers and stakeholders were undertaken. The interviews sought to gain a rich understanding of the circumstances in different locales and housing market contexts, and consider issues such as culture, gender and access to services. The project was exploratory in nature. The analysis of the data was conducted utilising the gerontological and homelessness prevention frameworks outlined above. → Provide a detailed analysis of the nature of older people's homelessness. This was an iterative process utilising the quantitative and qualitative data with the aim of outlining pathways into homelessness in later life. This provides a useful framework for policy and planning processes. In addition the empirical research involved gaining insight into the intervention strategies utilised to address older people's homelessness. Prevention was a particular focus of this analysis. This research project, with its multiple foci, draws on a large amount of individual client case records and insights from interviews with professionals skilled in working with vulnerable older people in housing crisis. It provides a rich and illuminating understanding of homelessness for older Australians. The inclusion of urban, rural and remote areas of Australia in this study not only provides an understanding of different geographies and their respective structural contexts but also encapsulates an understanding of the interplay of gender and culture. Key findings: Older people's homelessness in Australia is predominately about experiencing homelessness for the first time in later years. Previous research in Australia has intimated the importance of first time homelessness among older people. However, these studies have been small exploratory studies. This study, the largest study to date in Australia on older people's homelessness, confirms this distinctive pathway. Pathways to homelessness The study identified three pathways into homelessness for older Australians: 1. People with a history of conventional housing. 2. People who live with ongoing housing disruption. 3. People with a transient housing history. Each pathway has distinctive characteristics and is easily identifiable. Within each pathway there is diversity of experience. While this study is primarily concerned with first time homelessness it is considered important to outline and understand all later life homelessness events in Australia so that we can form a clear picture. The focus of the study was people with a conventional housing history who presented to ACHA with a range of critical housing incidents. On the whole people with a conventional housing history had been renters, mainly in the private market. In order of frequency the critical incidents were grouped as: → Being served a Notice to Vacate (NTV). → Being unable to continue living with family. → Lack of affordable housing options. → Inaccessible housing design making it unsafe to continue residency. → Breakdown in a relationship. The impact of a breakdown in intergenerational housing arrangements and resulting homelessness risk for older people is an important finding in this study. Older people face a housing crisis when they are unable to continue living with family due to carer stress, overcrowding, tension and breakdown and, in a small number of cases, elder abuse. The inability of Australia's housing, particularly the private rental market, to facilitate older people ageing in place was another significant finding. Physical access issues were a dominant reason for older people to be in housing crisis. Notice to Vacate (NTV) and lack of affordability were also common critical housing incidents. This latter finding reinforces our understanding of the deprivation and vulnerability older people reliant on the pension experience while managing private rental payments. In addition, this finding highlights the need to consider accessibility as part of the provision of affordable housing in Australia. The other pathways identified in the study, both with very distinct characteristics, relate to ongoing housing disruption and transience.