Plea for more emergency accommodation for domestic violence victims

November 4, 2015

The Daily Telegraph

Leisha Seaton, program manager and Penny Williams, case worker, at Kara Cottage, West Gosford. Coast Shelter is calling for more funding for women's shelters on the Central Coast. Picture:Peter Clark
Leisha Seaton and Penny Williams at Kara Cottage, West Gosford. Coast Shelter is calling for more funding for women’s shelters on the Central Coast. Picture:Peter Clark

Victim support services on the Central Coast, NSW have made an impassioned plea for more crisis accommodation as the domestic ­violence “epidemic” is forcing them to turn women away in their droves.

Coast Shelter executive officer Laurie Maher said more refuges and affordable housing was desperately needed to help victims across the region that was fleeing family violence.

Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research figures show there were 1367 reported cases of domestic violence on the Central Coast in the 12 months to June – equivalent to 26 incidents every week.

“The shocking fact is we are only able to accommodate one in five people who need crisis accommodation because of the high demand,” Mr Maher said.

As well as its three crisis refuges for women and children, Coast Shelter has 23 transitional properties, offering temporary accommodation to women between the refuges and rental accommodation.

Last financial year just under 360 people were housed in Coast Shelter’s three refuges for women and children, with two-thirds of those needing help because of violence or abuse.

He said the shortage of ­affordable rental properties on the Coast was one of the biggest ­obstacles to getting women and ­children out of crisis ­accommodation.

Central Coast Domestic Violence Committee ­spokeswoman Nicolle Schwebel said violence against women was at “epidemic proportions”.

“Two women are being killed every week in Australia as a result of intimate partner violence with police figures indicating an alarming rate of domestic violence in the Wyong Shire,” Ms Schwebel said.

Jason Tudman, who heads a Coastwide support service for victims of domestic violence which is managed by Brisbane Water and Tuggerah Lakes police, said the reported figures were just “the tip of the iceberg”.

“We see around 350 people a year, but we know that domestic violence is under-reported,” Mr Tudman of Central Coast Area Domestic Violence Integrated Case-Management and Education (ADVICE) said.

“There is still a massive stigma associated with DV. The best we can hope for is that everyone comes forward. Yes, we will be overwhelmed, but this is what we want.

“While we will never send people home or make them sleep in a car, and will always try and seek out other options to keep them safe, there is definitely a need for more refuges.”

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