There is no one pathway into homelessness for all women affected by domestic and family violence. However, we do know from the research on domestic and family violence and homelessness that it is concern for safety that leads most women (and their children) into homelessness. Women experiencing domestic and family violence generally reach what is known as a crisis point or tipping point in their lives – a point where they fear for their own safety or that of their children and which necessitates them leaving their home for safer accommodation.
Most women who become homeless because of domestic violence are in the secondary category of homelessness. They are not homeless in the ‘roofless’ sense, as most have a house (or home), but this house/home has gradually or immediately become unsafe for them and/or their children. Women in this situation are ‘housed homeless’ or, ‘homeless at home’. They comment that for many women affected by domestic and family violence, the exposure to violence, and the duration of the exposure to violence, has broader impacts than just safety. ‘Violence against women in the home denies them their security and safety and destroys foundations of their identity’ . The violence also often affects women’s sense of belonging, control and self-worth, affecting their self-confidence and self-esteem. For many women violence and abuse also results in isolation and reduced social inclusion and social connectedness – to friends, family and community. This limits participation in the labour force, or the women are prevented from working by their partners, affecting their ability to generate independent financial resources and to afford to leave their partner and live an independent life.
Domestic violence is the single biggest cause of homelessness in Australia.
Homelessness can be the result of many social, economic and health-related factors. From our experience, people can become homeless after many years of experiencing poverty, poor relationships and drug, alcohol or mental health issues.
Sometimes it affects people who have been managing well in life, but are thrown off course by a stressful episode like a relationship break-up, job loss or death or a loved one. This can set off a chain of events that leads to a person being without a place to live.
- A quarter of people seeking accommodation at specialist homelessness services are there because of domestic and family violence
- A further 15% seek help because of financial difficulties, while 12% are in housing crisis
- Another 10% of people who are homeless have been living in inadequate or inappropriate dwelling conditions.
A shortage of affordable housing and declining home ownership rates also contribute to the nation’s homelessness problem.