More accommodation needed for victims

By James Bennett

Crisis accommodation for victims of family violence needs to double in the Shepparton region, the VincentCare Marian Community says.

Currently women — and in most instances their children — are temporarily housed in one of four undisclosed crisis accommodation centres or motels if fleeing their home.

Acting Hume hub manager Michelle Turner said there needed to be at least another four centres to help as a starting point.

She said accommodation was one of the "biggest battles" VincentCare had to deal with.

"If it's not appropriate for the woman to be in the local area we will support them to move out of the region,'' she said.

"If we don't have safe accommodation available for the woman, Safe Steps (Victorian family violence support service) can assist."

Part of protecting family violence victims is to have the perpetrator removed from the house by an intervention order.

Ms Turner said in some cases once the woman had escaped the house, she would not return.

However she said in a lot of cases the woman went back to the perpetrator if they didn't feel comfortable with their relocation situation.

"Sometimes the woman can never go back home because of the mental pain it causes them.

"In other circumstances a lot of women won't move out of the area because the kids are still at school or they're established.

"Moving them from Kialla to Mooroopna could be a possibility when they can afford private rental.

"There are women who have lived in an area for a very long time who are moving to places they don't know.

"It's one thing being safe and not hurt but there's also the physiological safety of having people around (who) you know; your network of friends.

"We know a sense of belonging is really important and if you move someone into a space, it's really important we support them to know their surrounding community."

Ms Turner said without more crisis accommodation houses, the risk of women becoming homeless dramatically increased.

She said most victims of family violence had experienced or been at high risk of homelessness. 

"Women become homeless because they can't stay with the perpetrator and they need to relocate.

"VincentCare can relocate them to emergency accommodation or to a place they can stay temporarily but it's all about their capacity to maintain a private rental or mortgage.

"Often women will leave the property they have a mortgage on, rent it out and then move into a rental property.

"If the perpetrator goes to jail, it can be easier to house them (the victim) in their own home.

"But when the perpetrator comes out, then that's how women can become homeless because they're too frightened to stay where they are.''

The demand for more crisis accommodation comes as family violence referrals at VincentCare have increased in recent years.

"I can't speak across the board because Primary Care Connect also deals with family violence but I would say with the small amount of time I've worked in Shepparton, family violence is on the rise.

"The women are at higher risk now than they seemed to have been. Our referrals are much more serious situations."

But more referrals doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad statistic.

Ms Turner said one reason for the higher number of referrals was that more women were prepared to report family violence than previously.

"The royal commission into family violence has put a spotlight on the topic. That's good because it has made services more available to women.

"There are many women who come to us and say for a long time they didn't know how to get here,'' Ms Turner said.

"The royal commission and getting government involved does give an opportunity to people who are struggling to see they can receive support.''