More women fleeing abuse become homeless

·2-min read

After years of abuse and emotional manipulation by her partner, Amanda made the decision to leave her relationship and ended up homeless.

The Melbourne resident was in the early stages of her pregnancy but had no other option with limited savings and little support from family and friends.

"You never think it's going to happen to you," said Amanda, who did not want her surname published for safety reasons.

"I've gone through the guilt trip, thinking that it's my own fault. I've definitely been told several times that it is my fault.

"But it's never the fault of the person who's in that situation."

Amanda reached out to Melbourne support services like Launch Housing for crisis accommodation.

She ended up spending four-and-a-half years in transitional housing before she was able to move into a private rental property last year.

"Without (those services), I don't know what I would have done," she said. "I don't even want to think about it."

Amanda's story is not uncommon across Australia, with more and more women and children experiencing homelessness as a result of family violence.

"We are seeing the demand from that vulnerable grouping increase for permanent housing by 135 per cent in just the last six or seven years," Council to Homeless Persons chief executive Jenny Smith told AAP.

But while the demand for support has increased, Ms Smith said there were not enough places to house everyone.

"We're trending in the wrong direction," she said.

"The private rental market is not and cannot do the job because we have really low vacancy levels at the more affordable end of the private rental market.

"If you have people with complexity in their lives fronting up to the private real estate agent, they really just can't compete."

The council is calling on all sides of Victorian politics to commit to a housing guarantee before November's state election.

"We want an explicit commitment to build the social housing that's needed, to monitor the demand against the supply and also commit to more rental subsidies for women and children who really need a kickstart into a new rental," Ms Smith said.

Such a commitment would make a big difference to women and children fleeing family violence, Amanda told AAP.

"The number one thing is to provide more housing," she said.

"It's just ridiculous that there are so many empty blocks or vacant offices in Melbourne. I don't understand it.

"There needs to be more housing and different approaches to access different forms of accommodation for women and people in crisis."

The council is also calling for other measures like a youth-specific homelessness strategy and funding for 23 additional case managers as part of its state election wishlist.

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