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Woman and baby smiling at Christmas time

Women and children escaping family violence often have to travel long distances, away from their extended family, friends and communities for safety. During the festive season this can be particularly hard.

VincentCare spokeswoman Michelle Olley said the isolation was exacerbated by the intense advertising, celebrations and community activities on offer.

“Many of the women in our refuges and temporary houses are too fearful to go out; others have nowhere to go during this period,” she said. They’ve had to flee their homes and they have been relocated far away from their families, communities and friends.

“We do our best to make sure the woman and children have what they need to feel safe and involved. However, some women have experienced such severe trauma that they are not yet in a recovery phase to begin to connect, or their only connection was their ex-partner, and now they have no-one.”

VincentCare provided 655 women and children with housing, crisis support and case management in the past year. For children, this time means drastic changes and can be difficult for them to adjust.

“We need to assist them with healing from a very overwhelming time in their lives,” Ms Olley said. “This includes being able to fund psychological and counselling support, tutoring, providing play equipment that encourages physical activity and socialisation, and books and toys that promote comfort and healing, which is in line with our ethos for facilitating recovery.”   

The number of Victorian women seeking homelessness assistance due to family violence has increased 70 per cent over the past four years, according to the state’s peak body, Council to Homeless Persons (CHP).

“These figures provide an understanding of the scale of the problem that our sector is facing. We’ve had a tidal wave of new people needing help,” CHP CEO Jenny Smith said.

In 2016-17, 25,755 women (aged 15+) approached homelessness services due to family violence, up from 15,090 in 2012-13.

“In the midst of the housing crisis, agencies face the formidable task of finding affordable housing for women on low incomes fleeing violence.”

Family violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness, responsible for as much as 35 per cent of the homeless population of Victoria.

VincentCare CEO Quinn Pawson said it was time to address the housing crisis and provide better resources and support to families escaping violence to recovery.

“There is not enough short-term, crisis housing for families and partners escaping violence. Just as importantly, there is not enough long-term, affordable housing available for people to be able to be permanently placed in their preferred location, which means timely exits are also very difficult.”

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