The issues and some solutions

Have you ever asked why a woman does not leave her violent partner?

Did you ever think that perhaps it was because if she did leave, she would have nowhere to go to?

One in two women using homelessness services, such as McAuley Community Services for Women, is experiencing family violence.

Currently in Victoria there are 10,000 women who are homeless – many due to family violence or poor mental health. However, they are largely invisible from the public eye. This is because they don’t live on the street. Instead, many stay with family and friends, living on couches; others live in cars or in unsafe rooming houses; some find temporary housing in refuges or transitional houses.

Homelessness should never be the safer option for women.

But it is for too many because there is not enough safe, affordable housing in Victoria.

Once homeless, the outlook for many women is not positive because of a lack of specialist homelessness services that provide support and accommodation to women. In fact McAuley Community Services for Women is one of only two specialist support and accommodation services in Victoria especially for women.

Government policies and strategies further worsen the outlook. The current focus on rough sleepers – people who sleep on the streets – discriminates against women who are homeless as they are unlikely to sleep rough. In fact, only 6% of the 105,000 Australians who are homeless sleep on the streets.

This funding and planning priority leads to single issue solutions such as high-density, bedsit style housing which discriminates against women who are concerned about personal safety or who have primary caring responsibilities.        

The solution?

  • Funding for programs and an integrated service response to enable women and their children to stay at home without fearing for their lives.
  • Funding for a range of housing options, giving women a choice according to their situation, preferences and needs. This includes women-only services.
  • Funding for support services that address the specific needs of women, with or without children, and who are homeless either as a result of family violence or mental illness.
  • Investment into gendered analysis of all homelessness programs; policy and funding to make sure that women are not continually discriminated against.
  • Investment into an affordable housing strategy to increase the supply of low cost homes.