The recent research from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) shone a light on the challenges women and children face moving into stable, independent housing after domestic and family violence, saying it’s extremely difficult and sometimes unachievable¹.
Several times during Fehreen’s relationship she attempted to regain her independence by going to Centrelink and asking for help. “Whenever I tried, they said that I was considered in a 'de facto' relationship so I could not get any support to leave."
As a psychologist, Fehreen understands the devastating effects of domestic and family violence in all of its forms, and when she realised the impact her partner’s neglect and alcohol addiction was having on her sons, she had to make a change despite feeling trapped, financially drained and co-dependant.
“Domestic violence is not only physical, it is a mask that has many faces. It was heartbreaking, but it was not like everyone could see the result of physical violence or bruised eyes.”
“Of course, you want to make the relationship work, especially for the children; you believe it will change. But when we realise we are trapped, unhappy, and that our kids are in danger…we need to act.”
Fehreen did act. She bought a tent and booked a local campground, she told her little boys they were going on a holiday. She went to Centrelink in desperation and after a short time found herself and her boys residing in a women’s refuge.
It was not easy, and she hadn’t expected to stay for several months, but as she searched endlessly for a cheap rental, Fehreen found it absolutely impossible to move her little family forward.
“It was so difficult to find a home. I applied for public housing when I first arrived at the refuge… We were there for several months. It’s been four years now and I’m still waiting.”
During this time Fehreen’s children still saw their dad. When her ex-partner promised sobriety and change, and older kids at the refuge bullied their eldest child, they agreed to live separated under the same roof. But the promises were empty.
Fehreen discovered was eligible for one of BaptistCare’s brand new two-bedroom units, with rent discounted below the market rate, after showing up to view an apartment she saw on a real estate website. It also included tailored support from our onsite team to help her work towards greater independence and stability. She burst into tears. For Fehreen, it meant a roof over her head and a safer, happier home for her sons. For many years that seemed impossible.
For over three decades, HopeStreet has been coming alongside women facing the reality of homelessness with children or choosing to stay in a harmful relationship because they can’t afford to leave. We do this through our medium-term supported housing and affordable housing, as well as offering a range of other vital services to help women regain their independence, including counselling, group programs and no interest loans.
“We’ve been here for one year now, and I am so grateful for everything BaptistCare have provided me. I came here with nothing. The boys’ father and I now have a good parenting relationship, he comes and sees the kids every afternoon. We have our safe place. When dinnertime comes, we say ‘bye, see you tomorrow’.”
While Fehreen’s story is one of strength and resilience, and finally independence; sadly, it’s not the only one. There is great demand on our services. We work with women and their unique situations every day; can you help them too?
“I know first-hand, it’s not easy. It’s a very hard decision especially when you’re not financially independent. But it’s not impossible. There is always a way. Ask for help and emotional support. We don’t need to feel shame for something we are not responsible for, but we are responsible for ourselves and our kids. We deserve a life with dignity,” said Fehreen.
“I came here so lost. I didn’t know how to go on. BaptistCare offered me a home and said that anything I need, they will help me with. I just cried.”
We need your help to continue to support women like Fehreen to experience safety, regain their independence and have choices. Please donate now.
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.
*Names have been changed. Images are for illustration purposes.