Statistics show that domestic and family violence is the main cause of homelessness for the majority of women and children experiencing it here in Australia¹.
Even this year’s Federal Budget announcements did little to support women, with Australian Council of Social Service CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie saying: “…the Budget does nothing to specifically support single mothers on low incomes or older women struggling to find paid work and facing homelessness. The Family Home Guarantee low home loan deposit avenue will do nothing to help women on the lowest incomes secure affordable housing, including 450,000 older women at risk of homelessness.”
This was the case for Chloe*, a young mum and her now four-year-old boy, Ben, who quickly found themselves victim to the housing shortage. They endured the biting cold of winter last year living in a van, with the added insecurity around the pandemic.
“It was hostile at home, then the threatening began. I knew I had to leave,” said Chloe.
Chloe had fled interstate to escape vicious threats from her defacto partner with the help of her sister, she packed up her son and ran for their lives, but in many ways much damage had already been done.
When our BaptistCare HopeStreet team met Chloe, she was facing some of her darkest times. She had been homeless for five months prior, and was currently residing in a women’s refuge after having lived with her son in a van over winter.
“I was considering putting my son in my mum’s care, even though she already has a full house. I was feeling like I wasn’t doing the best for him. I felt like everything was my fault, so for a while there I was feeling really bad,” said Chloe.
Our BaptistCare HopeStreet team came beside Chloe and Ben, and provided emergency food support and assisted them with gaining temporary accommodation, while supporting Chloe in her search for permanent housing. They helped Chloe create a plan to support her goals and address her and Ben’s needs, both short and long term.
When children have been exposed to violence, they can commonly suffer from behavioural, developmental and mental health problems, particularly in their early development years of ages two to three.
Ben was facing developmental challenges and anxiety, and our team were able to help Chloe gain access to supportive therapies through NDIS Early Intervention.
“They are saying it’s the trauma Benny has gone through that has now impacted his delayed learning. When we first started to work on it, he didn’t want to learn. He was dealing with so much from before; from being homeless; and the refuge,” said Chloe.
“It’s been really hard to toilet train and his speech is a year behind.”
Without a home to live in, it was difficult for Chloe to give Ben the safe and stable environment he needed to thrive. “There was just no housing available. You know, 40-50 people would be looking at the same house you were looking at. You kind of knew you wouldn’t get it. People would show up in bank clothes, you know they are workers. They would have way more chance of getting the house than a single mum like me.”
The man they were escaping was not her son’s father… the father of her child had brutally beaten her and put her in hospital just months after she conceived.
“Back then, the police said I shouldn’t put his name on Benny's birth certificate. They said I should just erase him and run, so I did,” said Chloe.
This time, with Ben in tow, it took Chloe nine months to find a home. Two weeks before Christmas, her son drew a house on his letter to Santa. And just seven days before Christmas, our team helped Chloe and Ben move in and furnish their new permanent housing, where they now live.
“We’re doing really well now. Benny is definitely calmer and I’m feeling more settled, so my anxiety is not as high. We’re working on his development. It’s really good to see him start to shine,” said Chloe.
In the short four months BaptistCare HopeStreet has worked alongside Chloe, she has achieved every goal she originally set. Chloe is now studying for her dream job as well as supporting Ben. Ben is going to Family Day Care and is making good progress from speech therapy and intervention. Our team still supports them through regular strategy sessions for their mental health.
To support women like Chloe, and our HopeStreet teams who come around women experiencing homelessness or insecure housing, please donate today.
If you or someone you know is impacted by domestic or family violence, please call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or ACT Domestic Violence Crisis 24-hour Service line on 6280 0900. In an emergency, call 000.
¹Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2020. Specialist homelessness services annual report. Cat. no. HOU 322. Canberra: AIHW.
*Names have been changed. Images are for illustration purposes.