Local leadership on women and homelessness

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My first column for the Penrith City Gazette appeared two years ago. The issue of older women experiencing homelessness is of increasing concern and one that is not yet full addressed, let alone solved.

We know that some of the people in our region experiencing homelessness are women. This includes women who have been contributing all their lives, but through circumstances – including being single in older age without superannuation – are experiencing or are at risk of experiencing homelessness.

Wentworth is providing its homelessness support service to an increasing number of older women who can’t access and afford private rental housing. In addition to housing and financial stress, this also comes back to issues such as equal pay and participation in the workforce.

At the G20 International Dialogue on Women in Leadership in 2014, we debated the goal for a 25 per cent reduction in the gender gap by 2025 through increased participation of women in the workforce. We discussed the role of government and business in providing equality for women in terms of participation and pay. We spoke about a 50/50 path to leadership, where women are given the same opportunities as men.

But we didn’t talk about an important issue that is now right in front of us, largely unspoken and even unrealised. What happens when despite a lifelong commitment to work, family and the community a woman finds herself experiencing homelessness? The leap between a woman in leadership and this situation is merely a few steps.

To help solve this issue in our region, we are going to need to dig deep and activate the connectedness that drives everything that is great about the community. Now is the time to make contact, listen and learn something. Then we push hard to make change. And we can all play a part in this.

*Extract of opinion piece titled ‘women take lead on homelessness’, which appeared in the Penrith City Gazette on 26 September, 2016.


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