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On IWD2021, let’s prevent homelessness and make sure women are safely housed

8 Mar 2021

Through our Women’s Homelessness Prevention Project in Victoria, we know that COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted women, with many experiencing job losses, financial insecurity and increased family violence. This has led to more women and their children facing housing insecurity, increasing demand for Justice Connect’s holistic, integrated legal and social work services.  
This International Women’s Day, we’re sharing three key ways to prevent homelessness and ensure women stay safely housed during our community’s COVID-19 recovery. 

Build more homes to help end the housing crisis

There are now more than 25,000 homeless Victorians and almost half of them are women. Family violence is the most common cause of homelessness in Victoria: 84% of our Women’s Homelessness Prevention Project clients helped over the last year had faced family violence. There are also more than 82,000 people on the Victorian social housing waiting list, including more than 24,000 children. The private rental market remains inaccessible for many vulnerable Victorians.  

We welcome the Victorian government’s recent historic $5.3b investment to build 12,000 new social and affordable homes over the next four years. However, to address the acute shortage of suitable and secure housing and meet rising demand during the COVID-19 recovery phase, we will need at least 6000 more social (public and community) housing properties each year for the next decade to ensure Victorian women can access and maintain housing.  

Focus on prevention and early support

As recognised by last week’s report from Victoria’s first Parliamentary Inquiry into Homelessness, prevention is key to ending homelessness. Through our Women’s Homelessness Prevention Project, we have seen the volatile and unaffordable nature of the private rental market for women: over-half of the women we helped in the last year faced eviction for rental arrears. All it takes is for one thing to go wrong – the kids getting sick, or the car breaking down – for Victorian women to fall behind in rent and be on the brink of eviction into homelessness.  

Most evictions into homelessness are avoidable. We will only see meaningful change in women experiencing housing insecurity through major preventative action, including: 

  • better rental laws and policies, and an accessible justice system that ensures evictions into homelessness are an option of last resort; and 
  • early intervention models of support that integrate lawyers and social workers, address drivers and consequences of homelessness holistically, and prevent evictions into homelessness. 

Stronger social safety net

Women face additional barriers to housing and financial security, compounded by COVID-19, including family violence, financial inequality and carer-responsibilities.  

Australia’s social security system is currently contributing to housing insecurity rather than providing an adequate safety net to prevent homelessness. As at August 2020, only 0.8% of private rental properties in Australia were affordable and appropriate for a single mother with two children relying on a single parenting pension, and 1% were affordable for a woman on Newstart. This is reflected through our Women’s Homelessness Prevention Project, with 89% of clients on the brink of homelessness last year being reliant on Centrelink support.   

Income support plays a critical role in preventing and responding to homelessness. JobSeeker and other social security payments needs to be adequately increased so that women can pay their rent, stay safely housed and avoid a cycle of poverty. 

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