On an average day, at least 10 women will walk through the doors of Women’s Centre in Cairns in need of crisis support services.
The housing shortage in the Cairns region is having a huge impact on service delivery for women escaping violence.
“We’re seeing a mixture of homelessness and domestic violence,” Women’s Centre FNQ Team Leader Brittany Faulkner said.
“Often, women and children are having to return to unsafe situations because there’s no shelter or transitional housing available.”
Ms Faulkner said it was crucial for local organisations to work together to support women during the housing crisis.
“We couldn’t do our work without a coordinated response,” Ms Faulkner said.
“Domestic Violence is the leading cause of homelessness and our partner agencies recognise that.
“We don’t have properties and they don’t have specialist DV workers, so we kind of need each other.”
But while a coordinated response can help provide immediate support, all are facing the same problem when it comes to longer-term solutions.
“We attempt referral, we can motel them a few nights, but there’s simply no houses here,” Ms Faulkner said.
“Relocating women somewhere else often isn’t an option because it means removing them from their support system, so they often say no.
“That means we have to do a lot more safety planning. That looks different for every but it could involve discussing phone safety, conversations about DVOs (Domestic Violence Orders) and conversations with schools.
“Every worker here is a DV worker and we’re here to help these women and do what we can to build that strength and resilience.”
Ms Faulkner said that while the past year had been challenging, it had shown how resilient the team was.
“It’s been really tough on workers because we just don’t have the same options for people that we’ve had in the past. But our workers have been so adaptive and resilient – we have a small tight-knit group of workers who are doing everything they can to support families.”
The Women’s Centre has had a makeover in recent months, using grant funding to update the backyard with new gardens, seating and a basketball hoop.
“Clients love it. We can have a chat with them outside and the kids will be playing or watering the flowers and don’t hear any of our conversations,” Ms Faulkner said.
“We’ve also created kids’ playrooms to keep a bit more space between mum and her kids. We’re really lucky that because we own the building, we have that freedom to try things out and improve the space.”
The team also offers a Sing and Grow program, Young Parent Program for women under 25, a Family Support program with intensive case management and a new self-funded Family Connection program for mums that have their children removed.
“We’re trying to fill the gaps of our service,” Ms Faulkner said.
“Our funding criteria says we must support mums with kids in their care. But sometimes when a situation escalates, kids get removed, and that’s when mums need more support than ever. So we’re self funding a program to fill that gap.
“It’s all about meeting the needs of clients. We’re proud to be the kind of service where women feel safe to come back.”
Women’s Centre FNQ delivers programs in both Cairns and the Tablelands region, supporting women and their children to ensure they have options for a safer future. The Cairns office is located at 182 Gatton Street, Manunda and is open Monday – Friday from 9am –5pm. For 24hour crisis refuge referral in Queensland, contact DVConnect on 1800 811 811.