2 April 2023
Our Housing Worker Jessie talks about the many issues around finding housing for clients and how she goes about seeking out homes.
Housing is a family violence issue. For women leaving family violence, this often means leaving their home. They may leave with children or pets, in the hopes of finding a safer life for themselves and those they care about. However, family violence can have a profound negative impact on a victim survivor’s capacity to afford the housing that might enable this.
For example, women’s access or capacity to work may have been negatively impacted, leaving them reliant on Centrelink, if they are even eligible. Some women have visa restrictions that mean they are neither eligible for benefits, nor working rights (and perpetrators may have deliberately made this so).
For some, having restricted access to household finances has meant they have not learned budgeting skills, further impacting their capacity to run a household on a limited finances. On Centrelink, perhaps with children and no capacity to work, paying rent would be a hard task for anyone.
There is funding available to support women who are starting a new lease, but they still need to be approved for a rental property – something that is challenging enough on limited finances as rental prices soar, but then there are other barriers. Women leaving family violence may have no rental history, or may have been blacklisted due to actions of the perpetrator (e.g., financial abuse leading to unpaid rent, or property damage).
They may have become isolated from family or friends, leaving them with minimal supports. Or they may experience other vulnerabilities, such as language or cultural barriers, or disability or mental ill-health, which can make it all the more difficult to access housing. Family violence is the primary driver of homelessness in Australia, and it’s not difficult to see why.
In the face of this, Kara FVS has created a new role for a Housing Support Worker, to help address the need for housing that is so prevalent among the women we support. I have come on board in this role to provide focused housing assistance. This assistance can be diverse. It can be exploring whether it is possible for women and children to stay in their home, with safetymeasures in place.
If this is not possible, I may explore what supports women may be able to access in their wider community. Despite long wait times, I support women to apply for the Victorian Housing Register, when they are eligible. Together, we explore options such as shared housing or rooming houses.
When it comes to private rental, I help women prepare an application so that it presents them in the most positive light. I explain the process of attending inspections and submitting applications for those who have never done this before, or may need extra assistance because of language barriers or disability.
I help women identify areas where housing can (relatively speaking) be more affordable. And I help women stay motivated to keep looking for rentals, despite receiving many disheartening rejections. This is particularly true for women who we support in transitional accommodation, who may be looking, without success, for 12 months.
If someone is approved for a lease, I can apply for funding to help ease the cost of transitioning to the new home (e.g., for rent, bond, or basic furnishings). Through all of this, I work collaboratively with services in our area, which I say with big thank you to YWCA, Salvation Army, Women’s Housing, Uniting, and all others who have helped support positive housing outcomes for our clients.
As and added benefit, the Housing Worker role frees me to focus solely on housing and therefore frees up time for our Specialist Family Violence Practitioners to do what they do best and better support our clients together.
To find our more about our service call 03 9899 5666 or email support@karaFVS.org.au