Labor and women’s advocacy groups are calling for more to be done to protect Penrith’s most vulnerable, with a growing number of women aged 55 and over experiencing homelessness.
This demographic of women was already the fastest growing group of homeless people prior to the COVID-19 crisis.
Now, with Australia in recession and mass job losses across the country, there are growing concerns that this will only make stability more out of reach for these women.
State Opposition Leader Jodi McKay along with Londonderry MP Prue Car and Deputy Mayor Karen McKeown attended a range of local support services including DV West last week to call for urgent State Government support.
Ms McKay said gender inequity issues will mean women bear the brunt of the recession.
“We have a shortage of affordable housing, an ageing population, and a lack of affordable and accessible childcare, a growing gender pay gap, shrinking opportunities and insecure work for women,” she said.
“But the Government refuses to talk about economic recovery for women.
“We desperately need a strategy to deal with this looming crisis in New South Wales.”
Since the pandemic, DV West has assisted 1,169 women between April-August. This is a 47 per cent increase in comparison to the 793 clients they assisted in the same period in 2019.
The number of women assisted through its Outreach Services has also surged by 97 per cent compared to the same period last year.
Ms Car said with some of the highest rates of homelessness in New South Wales, Penrith needs more support to prevent this from continuing.
“Organisations like Wentworth Community Housing and DV West, that we visited, are doing an incredible job but the reality is they need more Government support to tackle this problem,” she said.
The Federal Government launched a grant program last month to support victims of domestic violence during the pandemic.
The $9 million program offers one-off grants between $20,000 and $150,000 to eligible services.
This followed a $21 million investment in frontline domestic violence support services delivered by the Federal and State Governments in May.
Minister for Women Bronnie Taylor said the investment was a timely response, which would ensure more women and children will be able to access vital support.
However, Ms Mckay said more needs to be done about the underlying gender inequalities in the workforce in order for these women to be given more opportunities to get back on their feet.
A graduate of Western Sydney University, Nicola Barton is a news journalist with the Western Weekender, primarily covering crime and politics.