New Homes For Women and Children Fleeing Family Violence
2 August 2016 at 9:43 am
Women and children fleeing family violence could be about to get a new home following the release of the Victorian Government’s Housing Blitz funds.
More than 300 properties are set to be leased under the $50 million Rapid Housing Assistance program, following a partnership between the state government and the community housing sector.
The program, which will see 124 properties leased with the purchase of another 184 homes, was announced in the Victorian Budget 2016/17 as part of the government’s $152 million Housing Blitz in response to the Royal Commission into Family Violence.
It aims to give women and children escaping family violence greater access to a range of housing options.
Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing Martin Foley said the program offered “crucial support”.
“We are working with agencies to provide emergency relief for people in housing crisis – by increasing the number of houses available to provide urgent assistance to women in children in dire circumstances,” Foley said.
“While some of the properties have already been leased, we expect the first homes to be purchased toward the end of the year, with all of them being lived in by the end of the financial year.
“This is crucial support for members of our community who are forced to flee their own homes. It’s exciting to see this come to fruition, achieving real bricks and mortar results.”
The new homes will be owned or managed by 16 community housing organisations throughout Victoria, in both regional and metropolitan areas.
Not for Profit Launch Housing has secured funding from the tender to purchase 20 new dwellings and lease 27 rental properties to rapidly rehouse women and children fleeing family violence.
Launch Housing’s deputy CEO and director of services Dr Heather Holst, who gave evidence at the Royal Commission, said it was “good news” and the funds would ensure the safety and essential housing needs of some of the most vulnerable women and children in our communities.
“We’ll be able to, like the other agencies involved, put the housing on the ground pretty quickly because we know, it’s not having to be built, it is all pretty immediate and that is just really pleasing with the situation that the women are facing,” Holst told Pro Bono Australia News.
“It’s the first of the injections… more is needed and more is being worked on which is great too.
“It is good to be working in a period where the state government has really engaged with the issues in a very well informed way because of the royal commission process.”
Holst said the lack of secure, affordable housing was the major barrier to women and children leaving family violence.
“It is one of the things that keeps a lot of women there [in abusive homes] and stops them making the final decision,” she said.
“Risking homelessness with your children is a massive decision to take.
“Knowing that if you break it off with your partner you won’t be able to necessarily afford the rent or the mortgage or be entitled to even stay at the property if you perceive it as his house is a really massive thing.
“And then having left, that’s not too bad for a brief period, but you really can’t have the children settle in school or you can’t be near your own GP, there are just so many things that you can’t do when you haven’t got a stable place that you know is yours.
“So it’s both a reason that women don’t leave and it makes it very hard after they have, and that really impacts safety. If you’re making these tough decisions to stay in situations that aren’t safe but you are fearing the worst for losing your house, that is not a decision we should have to take, as women in Australia now.”
Holst said they had seen a significant rise in the number of women and dependent children approaching their services for housing and support in an attempt to escape a violent and abusive home.
“In the last year alone 60 per cent of our clients were women and children fleeing family violence,” Holst said.
“Many of the women who come to our service looking for a way out of an abusive relationship have a really hard time accessing public or community housing and private rental during a time of great emotional upheaval.
“I think the tighter the housing market is, the more it is a factor.”
She said the longer a woman and her children remained in housing crisis the trauma and suffering they endured was prolonged.
“We know that family violence has a devastating impact on the lives of the women and children who experience it,” she said.
“If you add to that the fear and uncertainty of not having somewhere safe to go and a sense that you are going to be able to get your life back together quickly the trauma increases.”
Holst said the Andrew’s government was on track to deliver strong policy and funding outcomes.
“This is the sort of leadership that can have a significant and enduring impact on one of the biggest social and community concerns we are dealing with in Victoria and nationally,” she said.
“Housing is one of a broad range of issues covered by the royal commission but it really is one of the first things we need to sort out for women and children at risk.”
It comes as Labor has called on the federal government to appoint a minister for housing and homelessness.
The shadow minister for housing and homelessness, Doug Cameron, said Homelessness Week highlighted the federal government’s “failure to tackle homelessness”.
“This week is Homelessness Week. It is a week during which every one of us should pause and reflect on the fact that on any given night, one in two hundred Australians have no home they can call their own,” Cameron said.
“Labor believes that safe, affordable housing is a basic human need and a basic human right, the absence of which denies people their human potential and the chance to lead a fulfilling life.
“The Turnbull government, like the Abbott government before it, doesn’t even have a minister for housing and homelessness.
“At a time when housing unaffordability is at its worst in living memory, more people than ever are suffering housing stress and homelessness remains unacceptably high, housing isn’t even on the government’s radar.
“Labor calls on the government to appoint a minister for housing and homelessness with responsibility to reduce the incidence of homelessness in Australia and tackle in a meaningful way the housing affordability crisis that is killing the aspirations of a generation.”