Public hearings at the Royal Commission into Family Violence started this week with the commission already hearing concerns about how ingrained family violence is in our culture, and how far we have to go before we see an end to family violence in our community . Survivors have also started giving evidence of their harrowing experiences.
Next week CHP will give evidence to the Royal Commission. Drawing on our submission, CEO Jenny Smith and Policy and Communications Manager Sarah Toohey will highlight the relationship between housing, homelessness and family violence and focus on the solutions that will help break the link between homelessness and family violence.
Whilst the relationship between family violence and homelessness is complex, we know that it accounts for at least one third of all people who seek help from specialist homelessness services making it the single biggest cause of homelessness in Victoria. The solution requires a broad approach, including the programs outlined below.
Extension of the ‘Safe at Home’ programs
CHP recommends an extension of Safe at Home programs. These programs focus on removing the persons who uses violence of family violence allowing women and children, to stay safely in their homes. This requires legal and financial support as well as effective police responses. Financial support should assist a woman to sustain the home and to bridge any gap between employment and unemployment.
Focus on rapid rehousing
If a woman doesn’t want to stay in the home, she should be assisted to move to permanent housing as quickly as possible to minimise the disruption of multiple temporary moves. This can be in private or community rentals and would require an expansion of private rental brokerage programs. Rapid rehousing should also include a short term subsidy to help people secure and maintain long term rentals. Ongoing support from the relevant services is also essential.
More social housing
For some people, the trauma of their experiences or caring responsibilities makes it harder for them to return to the workforce. More social housing is needed so that people who find themselves in this situation are equally able to escape violent circumstances.
Maintain connection to the workforce
It is important that women who have experienced family violence be supported to maintain or establish a connection to the workforce, if they want to. This can help build self-confidence as well as establish a buffer to further periods of homelessness. Supportive and well informed workplaces and family violence leave are crucial to allowing women back into the workforce.
Rental security reforms
Giving people the option to stay in tenancies for more than 12 months, as well as predictable rental increases over a two, three or five year term, would also be helpful for women escaping violence. This predictability and security would better allow people to make plans and goals towards sustaining the tenancy.
These initiatives will play an important role in breaking the link between family violence and homelessness. However, they need to be underpinned by an affordable housing strategy because like everyone else, victims of family violence are affected by the general housing market. CHP would like to see the Victorian government implement these solutions with a long term focus to ensure that people who experience family violence are given every possibility to escape the cycle.