Warrawong resident Jacqui Hunter is one of more than 50,000 people living below the poverty line in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven.
Since a hip replacement 15 years ago, the 61-year-old has been unable to find work and has struggled to make ends meet on a disability pension.
Support from services like the Warrawong Residents Forum – including free lunches at the suburb’s community centre – has been invaluable.
The forum was one of three services represented at an Anti-Poverty Week event at the centre on Monday.
‘’The services provide very different support to people living with disadvantage – together they help around 35,000 people each year,’’ Illawarra Legal centre co-ordinator Truda Gray said.
‘’The legal centre works to get access to justice for people living with no financial resources.
‘’The residents forum provides a range of practical support and services aimed at increasing skills and reducing isolation.
‘’And Wollongong Homeless Hub is a one-stop-shop for homeless people to get access to different resources.’’
Ms Gray said people living on a Newstart allowance, or disability or aged pension, were living well below the poverty line.
‘’The Henderson poverty line sits at around $550 per week whereas a single person on disability support or aged pension gets around $394, and someone on a Newstart allowance gets $261.50,’’ she said.
‘’These allowances need to be increased because they’re not enough to live on.’’
Forum manager Maxyne Graham and Homeless Hub manager Julie Mitchell are also calling on the government to take action.
‘’We offer support, information, referral and advocacy for people,’’ Ms Graham said, adding the free lunch catered for around 70 people at each setting.
Meantime, around 10,000 people have visited the homeless hub since it opened two years ago.
‘’There’s 1500 homeless people in the Illawarra on any given night,’’ Ms Mitchell said.
Ms Hunter has never been homeless, but her housing options are limited.
‘’Where I live is very rundown, but I don’t have much of a choice,’’ she said.
‘’The cost of living keeps going up, so I’ve just had to stick to a very tight budget. That means cheap sausages and mince instead of steak; it means walking instead of catching public transport.
‘’So when I can get help – or a free lunch – it’s very welcome.’’