Family Violence and Homelessness

This Sunday, 25 November 2018 marks the United Nations International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women.

One of the main reasons people experience homelessness is family violence.

There were 72,000 women seeking assistance from Specialist Homelessness Services in 2016-17 who cited family and domestic violence as the cause or a contributing factor to their homelessness.

The observance of this day recognises, and reflects on the complexity and interconnectedness of family violence and homelessness.

Homelessness and family violence are underpinned by a range of factors including gender inequality, socioeconomic disadvantage, mental health diagnoses, and reduced access to income support and housing.

Studies show that it’s common for family, domestic and sexual violence to occur repeatedly. The AIHW reveals more than half (54%) of the women who had experienced current partner violence had experienced more than one incident of violence.

Research from Australia’s National Research Organisation Women’s Safety (ANROWS) shows that intimate partner violence is the most significant health risk factor for women aged 18 – 44 years old. Women who are pregnant are often at greater risk of violence from a partner.

(Image: by Unsplash)

Moreover, women are more likely to experience family violence in their home and from someone they know.

Some groups are at increased risk of family, domestic and sexual violence, including:

  • Indigenous women
  • Young women
  • Pregnant women
  • Women separating from their partners
  • Women with a disability
  • Women experiencing financial hardships

Many women request assistance from Specialist Homelessness Services because they lack the financial income needed to acquire housing.  Elaine, a former client who recently shared her story, reveals the struggle to secure housing, maintain safety and find employment. An experience like Elaine’s can be challenging and traumatic.

It is also harder for women who do not have a rental history to acquire housing. In some cases they may have to leave their home quickly, without having time to grab personal belongings or access finances.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women

Family violence within Aboriginal communities is both a cause and effect of social disadvantage and intergenerational trauma.

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, accessing homelessness services and staying safe can be particularly challenging.  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 35 times more likely to be victims of domestic violence.

The closeness of the community can create difficulties when women need to access confidential counselling, clinical care, and legal services, especially when the communities in which they live are in remote areas.

Childhood homelessness and family violence

Family violence and homelessness are often connected, and the impact on a child is significant. Children experiencing homelessness have increased adverse effects on their health, wellbeing, education, relationships and community connectedness.

According to ANROWS, more than two-thirds (68%) of mothers had children in their care when they experienced violence from their partner.

The impact of family violence on a child is profound, and has both immediate and long-term impacts including emotional and behavioural development issues, and relationship difficulties.

A child can also experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because of exposure to family violence, and have unwanted memories of past trauma.

Assisting people experiencing family violence and homelessness

Launch Housing offers specialist homelessness services for women and children experiencing family violence and homelessness.  For women in these situations, rapid rehousing is critical to building a stable future. The philanthropically funded Women’s Rapid Rehousing Program moves women and their children out of homelessness as quickly as possible, or helps prevent an experience of homelessness altogether.

Launch Housing aims to support all individuals experiencing family violence, and is committed to assisting people without judging them or their history.

If you or someone you know are experiencing domestic or family violence you can contact: Orange Door Victoria or if you are in immediate danger, call the Police on 000.

As a result of the Royal Commission into Family Violence, organisations such as Launch Housing that work with victims and perpetrators of family violence will share information via the new Information Sharing Scheme. This scheme provides information sharing entities (such as Launch Housing) with access to a variety of information that will help keep victims of family violence safe.

This Scheme is strictly confidential. Only minimum information about victims of family violence is shared between services that provide help to victims, and only with the victim’s permission. The Information Sharing Scheme will share information about perpetrators of family violence so that services know who they are, and can use the information to help keep victims safe. A perpetrator will not be provided with any information about their victim.

Learn more about the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme.