Women’s Homelessness Prevention Project

Since 2014, our innovative Women’s Homelessness Prevention Project (WHPP) has responsively kept women and children safely housed across Victoria through integrated legal and social work assistance.

From 20 years of frontline experience through our Homeless Law program, we know that integrated legal services are essential in helping Victorian women and children to break the links between homelessness, family violence and financial stress.

The WHPP is the only service of its type in Victoria, and its model was cited by the Law Council of Australia’s Justice Project Final Report as best practice for successfully preventing and reducing housing insecurity.

Stopping homelessness before it starts for women and children

Almost half of Victorians experiencing homelessness are women. 1 in 6 are children under 12 and family violence is the most common cause of homelessness in Victoria.

The COVID-19 public health pandemic and the related recovery phase has also caused rising legal need for women and children facing housing, financial and job-related insecurity, along with heightened risks to safety and health.

The WHPP is one of the Victorian legal assistance sector’s most targeted and ambitious models of partnership-based, integrated practice.

The WHPP provides specialised, ongoing legal representation to ensure that women and children are safely housed, advocates for victim-survivors with rentals affected by family violence, as well as resolving debts and fines that are barriers to secure housing and keeping women and their children together.

This client-centred legal help is combined with the WHPP’s social worker, who expertly helps women and their children to navigate tribunals and courts, and to maintain or access safe housing.

Our social worker also directly links women and their children with WHPP partner organisations for family violence case management, financial counselling, employment support, housing services and community connections.

Our impact

Keeping women and children safely housed. Since 2014, we've kept women and children safely housed through intensive legal representation and social work support.

In 5 years, the WHPP has proven highly effective in breaking the links between homelessness, family violence and poverty, including by:

  • holistically helping 671 women and children through wrap-around legal, housing and social work support
  • achieving an 84% success rate in finalised legal matters
  • preventing eviction into homelessness of 350 women and children.

Pitcher Partners prepared a pro bono report that costed the benefit of the WHPP to be 6.3 times the level of investment, with a cost saving to government of $4.9 million in 5 years.

Pitcher Partners also found that the WHPP’s average annual cost saving in its 5th year represented an increase of $309,972 when compared to its 1st year, demonstrating the WHPP’s growing impact for our community.

Improving systemic responses to break the links between homelessness, poverty and family violence

Since 2014, informed by casework evidence and direct feedback from clients and partners, the WHPP has made the following key contributions in improving access to legal supports and progressing social justice:

  • Informed the 2016 Royal Commission into Family Violence through sharing our clients’ experiences to advocate for a safer, fairer and stronger community.
  • Prioritised raising community awareness about tenancy rights in the context of family violence to encourage women to take steps earlier before the crisis of eviction. An example that has extended the WHPP’s reach is our free online tool for Victorian renters, Dear Landlord.
  • Contributed to the passing of the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2018, which creates the strongest residential tenancy protections in Australia. The Act includes vital safety mechanisms which improve accessibility and tenancy protections for women and their children facing family violence.
  • Collaborated with the family violence sector and the Victorian Government to successfully create a Family Violence Scheme for fines reducing barriers to safe housing.
  • Advocated for safer and fairer public housing debt policies for victim-survivors.
  • Collectively secured significant protections for Victorian renters during COVID-19, including the ‘eviction moratorium’ and rental-related financial supports.

Our reports

Finding shelter from the law: Fairer responses to homelessness in our communityDownload PDF (2 MB)
Keeping Women and Children Housed: Women’s Homelessness Prevention ProjectDownload PDF (2 MB)
Women’s Homelessness Prevention Project 12-month reportDownload PDF (2 MB)