Now that we’ve given you the big picture, let’s give you a quick background.
As you can see through our various true stories below, homelessness can happen to anyone, even the happiest of people. A critical factor that directly contributes to this increasing social problem is domestic violence, a problem that is faced by many in the country.
In Australia, one woman is killed each week due to domestic violence, with one in three experiencing it generally (Homelessness Australia, 2012). National Shelter (2014) found that domestic and family violence topped the leader board of causes for homelessness with 23%, with 55% of females citing this reason as being without a home.
So far, police in Australia have dealt with an average of 594 domestic violence matters. If you were in the situation, would you make the call to take your child away from the problem to protect them?
When women do eventually leave these abusive partners, they’re jumping into a safety net that’s full of holes. The demand for shelter throughout Australia is so high that every second woman has to be turned away, and majority of these women will end up homeless.
I used to work with a woman that had to crash on the couches of her fellow co-workers to try to escape the harsh conditions with her husband at home, and I was able to track her down to see more into her story. I met up with Sarah* (name changed), who now lives with her three-year old daughter in a community house shelter that only has room for five families at a time, charging $25 a night.
“I was a victim of violence. I never phoned the police as although I was always afraid, I loved my husband. He was the father of our child and because of that, it becomes hard to speak up”, she said.
“Don’t look at me and stereotype- I wasn’t homeless because of drugs, alcohol, addictions. People don’t understand that being homeless is also a choice and in saying that it becomes a situation that goes beyond my control”.
Although she could rely on the generosity of her co-workers in providing her a couch throughout this period of hardship, as opposed to living on the streets, it still constituted as being ‘homeless’ due to her lack of homely elements such as a sense of security, stability, privacy, and safety.
Nowadays, she is still without a proper home, but is working towards putting herself and her daughter in more homely conditions.
“Living here is probably the safest and most secure I’ve felt in a long time even though it isn’t a permanent thing”.
What would you do in Sarah’s* situation?
Please take a minute to think about the complexities behind homelessness. Many do not simply ‘choose’ to be homeless. Factors such as domestic violence directly tear families apart, leaving many women without a home and without a sense of dignity. Homelessness is not a matter that we should overlook but rather, take time to pick apart the pieces. Let’s realize the importance in recognising the homeless, and help those in need in ways that we can.
Homelessness Australia, (2013). Homelessness in Australia. [online] Available at: http://www.homelessnessaustralia.org.au/images/publications/Fact_Sheets/Homelessness_in_Australia_v2.pdf [Accessed 22 Aug. 2015].
National Shelter, (2015). Housing Australia factsheet. [online] WA: Shelter WA, pp.2-12. Available at: http://www.shelternsw.org.au/publications-new/factsheets-new/226-housing-australia-factsheet/file [Accessed 22 Aug. 2015].
Written by JC