Royal Commission highlights links between family violence and homelessness

30 March 2016
The Royal Commission findings are a good start in reducing links between family violence and homelessness

Justice Connect Homeless Law welcomes the recommendations of Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence, which have the potential improve the lives of victims of family violence, in particular those facing homelessness as a result of violence.

Homeless Law welcomes the clear recognition by the Royal Commission that “[t]here is an urgent need to address the housing response to family violence”.

As Homeless Law and 128 other organisations pointed out in a joint submission, we know that Victoria’s shortage of affordable housing:

  • Deters victims from leaving violent relationships;
  • Pushes victims into homelessness; and
  • Can make perpetrators more isolated and increase the risk of repeated or escalated violence.

“The Commission makes eight recommendations specifically targeted at breaking the links between family violence and homelessness and we commend them for this,” said Lucy Adams, Homeless Law Manager and Principal Lawyer.

In its chapter ‘a safe home’, the report recommends measures to support victims to stay in their homes where safe and where they choose to.

”Essential measures are recommended to help make this a realistic option, including longer term rental subsidies and help with accessing counselling, education, employment and financial counselling.

“Given that 70 per cent of Homeless Law’s Women’s Homelessness Prevention Project (WHPP) clients – 95 per cent of whom had experienced family violence – were facing eviction for falling behind in rent, this is a measure that Homeless Law welcomes,” said Ms Adams.

“We caution against relying solely on the private rental market as the housing solution for victims, however. Social housing is a crucial part of any response. Half of the women we assisted through the WHPP were facing eviction from private rental properties. While legal representation and social work support can help prevent that, the private rental market remains precarious and unaffordable for victims of family violence,” said Ms Adams.

“We remain focused on preventing women’s evictions into homelessness and we encourage the Government to keep this in mind – including the role for access to free legal representation and social work support – in implementing the Commission’s recommendations,” said Ms Adams.

Homeless Law commends the breadth of the Commission’s response. “There are five recommendations around the Residential Tenancies Act that will help prevent victims being burdened with housing debts that limit their ability access safe alternative housing, and improve the mechanism for creating a new tenancy in a victim’s name to allow them to maintain housing after an experience of violence”, said Ms Adams.

“These recommendations are informed by the views of the legal, housing and family violence sectors and we welcome them wholeheartedly,” said Ms Adams. 

“We congratulate the Commission on its thorough, consultative, thoughtful report, and we commend the Victorian Government for its commitment to implementing these far-reaching recommendations. Now the real work begins,” said Ms Adams.

Justice Connect Homeless Law’s submission to the Royal Commission into Family Violence, Home Safe, is available here