Queensland’s housing crisis is causing a bottleneck for women who have escaped violence, with many stuck at shelters for more than 12 months.
Rockhampton Women’s Shelter Manager, Beverley Schimke, says the lack of housing and soaring rental market has had a huge impact on the women they support.
“We can’t move clients on. It’s a huge brick wall,” Beverley said.
“In the past, we’d typically be able to say ‘You’ll have housing in six weeks.’ Now we don’t have an estimate at all.
“It’s really frustrating for the women who have stuck it out here – they’re pushing 12 months – and as pleasant as we try to make it, that’s up to eight families living here in a confined space. It’s quite stressful for everyone.
“Some women decide to leave with nowhere to go.”
The shelter can house up to eight families on site, with another three safe houses in the community. Rockhampton Women’s Shelter also allows women to bring their pets with them.
“We’re the only women’s shelter in Queensland that takes pets,” Beverley said.
“We have a pet run down the back, but the pets usually stay with the family. We’ve had everything from dogs and cats to miniature ponies and baby possums who came with a wildlife carer.”
Studies show that 70 per cent of women delay leaving domestic violence because they want to keep their pets safe, while perpetrators will often harm family pets as part of their abuse.
“Being able to keep their pets safe by having them stay here is important, but it also provides companionship and a bond for women who have been through trauma,” Beverley said.
Due to safety reasons, most of the women at the refuge are not local.
Team Leader Emma says that makes the wait for housing even harder.
“It’s quite upsetting when most of our clients who are from outside Rocky want to go back to where they’re from. It makes it really tough,” Emma said.
Team leader Emma holds up a diamond painting by one of the women at the shelter.
“We’re playing a waiting game so we’ve had to find ways to help the women live happier while they’re here. We’ve bought them gratitude journals and we do diamond painting, which is a kind of artwork which they really enjoy.
“Some have been able to achieve their goals – get jobs, afford rent, one lady is now getting swimming lessons so she can learn to swim and another has started her own business.”
The huge amount of donations from the community means that when women are able to move on, they’re all set for their new home.
“We’re really well supported by the community,” Beverley said.
“We have so much donated, from new clothes to start-up kits for when they move, with kitchen packs, bedroom packs and cleaning packs for our women. We even have a local cattle farmer who drops in meat each week.
“In some ways, we’re able to assist clients in ways we never were before, but none of that really compensates for the lack of housing.
“We help women achieve their goals so they’re ready to leave, but the housing situation means they’re stuck.”
Rockhampton Women’s Shelter provides crisis accommodation to women and children escaping domestic violence and assists them to secure longer term housing and rebuild their lives.