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Domestic violence causes homelessness

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The number of people seeking help from homelessness services due to domestic and family violence has risen in recent years but only 4% of those who approached a homelessness service for long-term housing actually received it.

Mission Australia’s latest report Out of the shadows: Domestic and Family Violence, a leading cause of homelessness in Australia says domestic and family violence is one of the main reasons women and children become homeless in Australia.

More than 121,000 people experiencing domestic violence sought help from specialist homelessness services in 2017-18. Over three out of four people seeking specialist homelessness services due to domestic and family violence related issues were female.

Domestic and family violence is still a disturbingly common experience with 16% of women (1.5 million) and 5.9% of men (528,800) having experienced violence from a partner since they were 15.

Mission Australia’s CEO James Toomey says: “Despite being the focus of serious national policy and media attention over the past few years, it is unacceptable that domestic and family violence is at such high levels in Australia. We need to do more to prevent, reduce and ultimately eliminate domestic and family violence if we are to have any chance of ending homelessness.

“While we know that domestic and family violence can affect anyone, overwhelmingly the statistics and what we see every day through our work show that women are far more likely to experience violence from an intimate partner than men. Women and children are at the greatest risk of homelessness as a result of domestic and family violence. As a society, we need to be doing more to reinforce gender equality and normalise respectful relationships to reduce instances of domestic and family violence across Australia.

Toomey cautions that a severe shortage of social and affordable homes and increased levels of housing stress are tipping too many victim-survivors into unsafe and insecure living situations.

“Everyone has the right to a safe and secure home. Yet there’s very little hope of addressing homelessness if there aren’t enough social or affordable homes for individuals and families to build a settled life in when escaping domestic and family violence. Of course crisis and transitional housing is vital, but if there’s no long-term accommodation that is appropriate and affordable, too many people will continue to be pushed into homelessness because their home is no longer a safe place to live.”

Toomey said: “We must acknowledge the enormity and reality of the problem if we are going to work towards real and lasting change. No one should be forced to stay in a violent home to keep a roof over their own, or their child’s head. We cannot sit on the sidelines and watch this happen time and time again.

“We must stand beside victim-survivors of domestic and family violence to advocate for much needed change. As a society it’s important we listen to, and put a spotlight on, these stories that are not always easy to hear. We need to make the tough, but essential changes needed to ensure there are a range of housing options including social and affordable homes, provide coordinated responses, improve economic security and redress gender imbalances."

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