The School of Population and Global Health at The University of Western Australia has just completed a Snapshot of our Safe as Houses program. The first stage of a broader evaluation that will be completed next year, the snapshot clearly illustrates the profound impact that Safe As Houses is already having in preventing homelessness for women and children experiencing family violence in WA.
“For many women, leaving a violent relationship means leaving your home and leaving financial and housing security – assisting women with family law property matters and tenancy issues is one of the most common forms of support provided by SASH, lead researcher Associate Professor Lisa Wood said.
SASH is a specialist legal support program that prevents homelessness among women and children affected by family and domestic violence, run by Tenancy WA, in collaboration with Women’s Law Centre and Street Law Centre WA.
Across Australia, 36% of women seeking support from homelessness services because of family and domestic violence according to recent data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
“SASH complements the work of other homelessness services in the community as it can provide critical legal advice and support relating to housing, tenancy and property law matters, whilst also connecting clients to other community support” Associate Professor Lisa Wood said.
“Safe as Houses provides integrated and holistic legal and non-legal support services to resolve the complex tangle of legal issues that family and domestic violence creates. All of the clients to date are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness due to these issues.” said Carmen Acosta, Executive Manager of Tenancy WA.
“More than 115 women were supported by SASH in its first year, and 68% of these women had dependent children. Over 840 hours of legal assistance was provided to clients in preparation and representation of legal issues”, Associate Professor Lisa Wood said.
Family and domestic violence affects women's financial security in key areas of life: debts, bills, and banking, accommodation, legal issues, health, transport, migration, employment, social security and child support.
“The average cost of providing specialist legal support through Safe as Houses is $3000 per client, which is tremendous value when you consider that the cost of someone sleeping rough is approximately $25,000 a year to the community,” said Carmen Acosta, Executive Manager of Tenancy WA. “But of course we know the human and emotional cost is far greater.”