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Stay or be homeless: the cruel choice facing family violence victims

For domestic violence victims, the cost-of-living crisis can mean a terrible choice, reports Samara Lee

Family and domestic violence survivors are being left in limbo as support services struggle under the increased demand from Australia’s cost of living crisis, victims and advocates say.

A housing supply crisis, soaring rents and general cost-of-living increases are combining to hit the most vulnerable, with the Salvation Army warnin cost-of-living issues are often a major factor in domestic violence cases. Jennifer Kirkaldy, general manager for policy and advocacy, said basic economic pressures inevitably fuelled family and and domestic violence.

“When there are other stressors, we see an increase in both the severity and frequency of family violence,” Ms Kirkaldy said.

There had also been a rise in “the barriers to seeking help” as support services did not have the resources to aid everyone, often having to turn people away.

“It really is victim survivors making a choice between staying where they are and being homeless,” she said.

Family violence survivor Sharnee Beal waited months to find housing through support services in 2022.

Sharnee Beal moving her family into their new home. (Photo: Samara Lee)

She was put in contact with services by police in October 2022 and her case was handed on multiple times before she received assistance from Boorndawan Willam Aboriginal Healing Service in Lilydale in Melbourne's outer east. Ms Beal said her seven-month wait was shorter than the delay endured by many.

“Most people seeking these services don’t know when and if they should push and chase,” she said. Ms Beal said this was not a new issue.

“Housing assistance wasn’t great before the increase in living costs or COVID, but there has definitely been an impact. The issue is people don’t realise how bad it is until they’re at their most vulnerable.”


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