I remember so clearly the time preparing to move out of home as an 18 year old and embark life as an independent grown up. I remember feeling a little anxious, but mostly excited, and expectant. I remember how proud and excited I was to buy my first furniture, my first washing machine, my first linen for my bed, opening accounts in my name. I would spend hours flicking through catalogues looking at all the beautiful homewares I could buy to decorate my home. Setting up home was an adventure, a triumph of coming of age, and a promise of a bright and exciting future.
As you get older, the novelty of setting up house can fade somewhat, but there is still that lingering satisfaction of a fresh start, the chance to purge of useless and superfluous items, and the chance to be create a new space reflective of your current stage of life.
But on any given night, 1 in 200 Australians are sleeping rough due to homelessness. Of this number, it is estimated that one quarter are experiencing homelessness due to domestic violence. Domestic violence disproportionately affects women and their children, and is the most common cause of their homelessness. Many women arrive at shelters with nothing, and are often unable to return to their home in order to collect their belongings for fear of their safety. They arrive not only with physical bruises and scars, but deep emotional scars and trauma. Their lives have been completely turned upside down: home is no longer safe, the one who says he loves you is the one who hits you, where there was once hope and expectation there is now despair and anxiety.
This year, I have been fundraising to provide women experiencing homelessness due to domestic violence with essential items such as toiletries, sanitary items, and pyjamas. In two months we were able to raise enough funds to provide nearly 30 bags to women in the Launceston Women’s Shelter, each containing essential items and a card containing words of hope and encouragement.
But the story doesn’t end there. After the initial crisis comes the harder journey: building a new life from scratch. This journey doesn’t look anything like what mine did when I left home at 18. Instead of anticipation there is often fear and dread. Women who experience domestic violence and homelessness are at risk of severe psychological trauma, which can not only result in depression and anxiety, but impacts their ability to concentrate, problem solve and cope with stress. The enormity of finding permanent accommodation and furnishing it from scratch is often overwhelming and financially prohibitive. Often the hurdle is too great to overcome, and women feel compelled to return an unsafe situation.
On the 16th September this year we will be holding a 30 for 30 Courage and Hope Cocktail Party which is intended to help us to band together and alleviate some of the stress of having to set up house after experiencing homelessness. We will be accepting monetary donations to purchase packs that will contain items needed to set up house: linen and towels, crockery and cutlery, pots and pans and most importantly, hope and courage.
We want to the message from this night, and everything we do, to be, ‘We know this is tough, we know it’s not going to be easy, but we believe in you. We believe that the future is so much brighter than what you have left behind. We want to help you and encourage you to start again so you never, ever have to go back.’
I believe there is something rotten in the fabric of a society that turns its face away from the reality that 1 in 3 of its women are physically or sexually abuse in their lifetime, that its children are more likely to be abused by someone they know and trust than by a stranger, and 1-2 women are killed every week by a current or former partner. A society where the home is not a safe place for thousands of its women and children, is not a society that can thrive and reach its full potential. For too long domestic violence has been a hidden crime, a silent rot spreading beneath the floors of our nation. As we lift up the floor boards, it is going to feel as if the problem is getting worse, not better. But until we expose the full extent of domestic violence in Australia to the light, we cannot hope to address the underlying causes of contempt, selfishness and cruelty. Until then, the demand for homeless and domestic violence services will only increase, and as a society, if we truly believe that everyone has the right to feel safe in their own home, we have to be prepared to meet that need.
30 for 30 is a small project, operating in a small city. In the large scheme of things, it won’t make much of a difference in terms of statistics and KPIs. But the impact on the individuals who are helped cannot be measured through numbers. If you would like to donate to 30 for 30, go here. If you would like to keep up to date, sign up to our mailing list, and like our Facebook page.