Specialist Family Violence Services and Safe Steps
LGBTIQ people experiencing family violence may choose to access mainstream family violence services. These services were established largely to respond to heterosexual family violence for women and children, and are working towards ensuring their services are LGBTIQ inclusive.
Safe Steps is the 24-hour crisis response service for women and children which can provide 24 hour advice and referrals to specialist family violence services as well as access to crisis accommodation.
Safe accommodation for LGBTIQ people experiencing family violence
A number of options exist for people wishing to stay in their homes including accessing flexible support packages, changing locks and removing people using violence from the lease.
For those requiring crisis accommodation, there are currently few options for people who don’t identify as women. This is one of the key challenges in supporting LGBTIQ people experiencing family violence.
Even where there are services, there may be other barriers in accessing crisis accommodation such as discrimination or harassment from neighbours or other residents. This may also be used as a justification to exclude someone from accessing a service. More detailed information on housing options can be found in our Practice Guide.
Barriers for LGBTIQ people accessing housing
In addition to the lack of refuge accommodation for men and non-binary people experiencing family violence, some LGBTIQ people may face barriers to accessing housing based on discrimination or harassment from neighbours or other residents in crisis accommodation. This may also be used as a justification to exclude. When considering housing options, it is important to clarify policies and procedures with emergency housing support services and whether they have ways to prevent and respond to these sorts of incidents and whether they have embedded cultural safety for LGBTIQ people.
More information is available below.
Options for leaving home
If a person experiencing family violence has to leave their home, there are a number of options including refuge or other crisis accommodation, moving in with friends or family or, if they can afford it, finding a private rental property. Safe Steps, Victims Support Agencyaccommodation and other specialist family violence services will be able to refer people to refuge and crisis accommodation, however often LGBTIQ people may have complex needs and require support and warm referrals to ensure that accommodation is accessible and safe.
Flexible support packages, available to people experiencing family violence and their children, can assist people with funding for setting up a new home or for crisis accommodation. They are only available through case workers in a family violence service, including through w/respect.
All women (including transgender women) and children who need urgent high-security accommodation have the right to access family violence specialist services including refuges, depending on a risk assessment by a specialist family violence service. Refuge accommodation is limited and operates on a 6-week stay model. All refuges currently have exemptions from the Equal Opportunity Act meaning that they are able to restrict their services to women and accompanying children. The VHREOC Guideline provides more information on how to ensure inclusive practice in accommodation.
Other crisis accommodation
There is also a range of crisis and specialist housing and homelessness support services available in Victoria for women, men, non-binary people and young people. These services may be able to assist people depending on area and eligibility criteria. Most people experiencing violence who need crisis accommodation and who are unable to stay in refuge are directed to a Homelessness Access Point set up across the state. These services also function as a gateway to transitional housing, subsidised rental programs and long-term social housing.
There is a regularly updated list of these services on the Department of Human Services website or people can find their nearest crisis housing service by phoning 1800 825 955 (24 hours, statewide and toll free).
LGBTIQ people experiencing family violence may also apply for social housing assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services. An online application can be lodged by any individual as a ‘Register of Interest’ on the Victorian Housing Register. ‘Priority Access’ is for people needing housing more urgently or who are particularly vulnerable or at risk. Homelessness Access Points can assist with the application process. Generally, to be eligible for these services, people will need to be a citizen or permanent resident of Australia and receive a regular income from either welfare benefits or employment (eligibility thresholds apply). Waiting times can vary depending on people’s circumstances and the geographical areas they choose to live but can be many months or years.
Tenancy Plus is a program which supports people already living in social housing who are experiencing risk to their tenancy (caused by family violence or any other reason). Local Homelessness Access Points can provide more information.
Staying at home
Recent changes to the law mean that people experiencing family violence now have more support to stay in their home. This should be encouraged in the first instance provided it is safe for them to do so and appropriate risk assessment and safety planning is in place. People experiencing family violence residing in both social/government housing and private rental have legal rights to remain in the property, in some circumstances even if they are not named on the lease. If they reside in social housing, DHHS can arrange and pay for an urgent locks change.
If there is a police-issued Family Violence Safety Notice or a full FVIO in place, one of the conditions will be that the person using violence is excluded from the home. It will be a breach of the order and a criminal offence for that person to enter the home. For renters, the Tenants Union of Victoria has a family violence protection tenancy kit and can provide advice about how to have the locks changed, receive consideration for rental arrears and have people using violence removed from the lease. Funding for additional safety measures to enhance a home’s security, known as a ‘safe at home’ or ‘personal safety initiative’ response is available via either Victims of Crime funding or a Family Violence Flexible Support Package (FSP). This can pay for items and services such as tech safety advice, surveillance sweeps of cars and premises, personal safety alarms, CCTV cameras, deadlocks.