Home of Your Own: Keeping more renters safely housed across Victoria

27 May 2024

Justice Connect is proud to present Home of Your Own: a free, online self-help tool, which empowers Victorian renters facing family violence to safely, and proactively avoid homelessness.

Use Home of Your Own

For over 20 years, Justice Connect’s Homeless Law has been Victoria’s specialist free legal service for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Justice Connect prevents and ends homelessness by increasing access to integrated and digital legal support, and advocating for better laws and policies.

Keeping more Victorian renters safely housed through digital self-help tools

Currently, in Victoria, there are over 30,000 people experiencing homelessness, a 25% increase in five years. Women and children represent 75% of people accessing homelessness services.

Family violence is a leading contributor to homelessness for women and children. Many Victorians are faced with a choice between remaining in an unsafe home, or being pushed into homelessness. This is compounded by the escalating housing and cost of living crises, which are locking many Victorians out from accessing secure and sustainable homes.

Recent changes to renters’ rights have created new legal protections for at-risk Victorians to minimise the housing and financial impacts of family violence, which are leading drivers of homelessness across the state.

However, through our tailored legal, social work and digital services for renters, we see that awareness of these key rights is low, even among frontline community workers, and there are multiple barriers to identifying and acting on them.

Building on the impact of our award-winning online tool, Dear Landlord and our best-practice, wraparound Women’s Homelessness Prevention Project  that breaks the links between homelessness, financial insecurity, and family violence, we have collaboratively developed our new self-help tool: Home of Your Own. 

This tool aims to particularly empower women and children who have rentals affected by family violence to understand their rights and options, and take early, proactive steps to stay safely housed.

Home of Your Own’s homepage

Co-designing with women who have lived experience of family violence and frontline community workers

To create Home of Your Own, we collaborated with women who have lived experience of family violence and homelessness, and implemented our learnings at each stage of the process using an iterative design process. 

We conducted in-depth interviews with 23 women with lived experience and frontline support workers, and collaborated with 8 specialist Victorian homelessness, housing and family violence support services. This deep research laid the foundations to develop our prototype concepts.

At each stage of the design process, we validated our concepts with this panel of experts. We incorporated feedback from women with lived experience using an iterative approach, which informed the design of Home of Your Own’s key features, look and feel, content, and tone.

To ensure a safe user experience, Home of Your Own has features like a ‘quick exit’ option, privacy and emergency information, and the ability to engage anonymously, with added control over the use of personal information.

Home of Your Own’s innovative features include:

    • A responsive logic-driven question flow to identify what information renters need based on their current situation, offering personalised legal information for renters facing family violence.

    • Practical guidance and steps for renters to discern the complex housing and financial impacts of family violence, understand their options, and take proactive steps to act on their rights.

    • Customised document generators to help renters communicate with their rental providers about their housing, safety and privacy needs in their rental homes.

    • Targeted pathways to additional support, including legal, housing, financial, and family violence support services, such as our Women’s Homelessness Prevention Project.

Extending our accessibility for renters by integrating with Dear Landlord

During the human-centred research, design and development process for Home of Your Own, we scoped the new tool’s integration with Dear Landlord, our impactful online tool to help Victorians behind in rent to avoid eviction. This has ensured we can best support early identification and intervention regarding risk of homelessness, financial insecurity and related issues for Victorian renters who are facing family violence.

We have been carefully mapping the linkages between Home of Your Own and Dear Landlord to ensure seamless user experience and integration when navigating between the two tools. As we further progress this integration, Dear Landlord continues to achieve significant outcomes in preventing housing and financial insecurity for renters across Victoria.

As we launch Home of Your Own, we remain committed to continuous improvement through our rigorous measurement, evaluation and learning mechanisms, particularly related to user feedback and outcomes. Qualitative and quantitative insights will also help us gather evidence for systemic changes for people facing housing and financial insecurity due to family violence. 

Justice Connect acknowledges the ERDI Foundation, the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation and the Victorian Legal Services Board + Commissioner for their visionary, generous support of our design, development and launch of Home of Your Own’s first iteration, making it possible for us to keep more women and children safely housed across Victoria. We also thank the women with lived experience of family violence and homelessness, as well as the frontline community workers, who shared their insights and contributed to the creation of this tool.