Women and children fleeing family violence situations in Tasmania are being turned away from crisis housing, with shelters across the state packed full.
Information provided by the state government revealed that as of November 12 there were 125 applicants waiting on the Housing Register with applications for Family Violence Rapid Rehousing.
In Launceston, Magnolia Place, otherwise known as Launceston Women's Shelter, offers crisis housing for women trying to escape potentially life threatening situations.
Magnolia Place Launceston Women's Shelter Manager Jenny said the recent state and federal government commitment to increasing the capacity of Magnolia Place was well received.
The shelter was expecting to grow from being available to offer 14 crisis accommodation units to women seeking refuge to providing 29 short term units.
All units are self-contained, one family per unit.
"The state government through their affordable housing action plan is trying to rectify the problem," Jenny said.
"There's certainly a lot in the pipeline and it's amazing that we are going to get over double the amount we have now."
While the increase is a positive one, Jenny said for the 20 years she has worked at Magnolia Place the shelter is always full, with a high number of women and children unable to access immediately.
When someone goes from here, there's always someone else waiting to come inMagnolia Place manager Jenny
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Jenny also mentioned her concern of the amount of women seeking housing as COVID-19 restrictions eased. As hotels throughout Tasmania remained empty during the pandemic some were repurposed as short term accommodation for women and children experiencing homelessness and at times also escaping family violence.
Now, with the borders opening back up and domestic travel resuming, Jenny said tourists are booking hotels making that accommodation unaffordable and unavailable for people on low incomes.
Another women's shelter called Warrawee on the state's north-west coast was in a more dire situation. Warrawee has not been granted funding.
The spokespeople said Warrawee received on average about four referrals of people seeking crisis accommodation a week. Those referrals came from all around Tasmania, as well as interstate.
Two spokespeople for the shelter said Warrawee had essentially been at capacity for as long as they could remember.
There are a minimal amount of spots available ... there's just not enough there for the demandWarrawee Women's Shelter spokesperson
"If we can't get them [women seeking refuge] in, we have to refer them elsewhere."
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Much of the time, "elsewhere" is Magnolia Place, another facility that has operated at over capacity for decades.
One of the spokespeople said the reality of the lack of housing options available to women trying to escape family was a day-to-day problem.
Earlier today I had to turn away a family violence client from the shelter who was living with her children in a house with 20 other people who also were unable to access housingWarrawee Women's Shelter spokesperson
When a woman who is making an attempt to escape from family violence is turned away from one of the six shelters designed for escaping these situations, their options become limited.
First they are referred to other shelters which are typically unable to facilitate them, then they are provided with a number for Anglicare's 24 hour housing option which may connect them to accommodation in a caravan park, motel or the like.
One of the spokespeople said many of the private accommodation options on the north-west coast did not even offer to take women seeking refuge.
Warrawee is a transitional facility and generally can only provide short-term housing to women and children, much the same as Magnolia Place.
Jenny from Magnolia Place, and the spokespeople from Warrawee both said the availability of affordable and liveable private rental properties was a major concern and barrier to helping re-home women trying to escape family violence.
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THE GRIM REALITY
Having to wait for crisis housing options for those escaping family violence has been a persistent problem in Tasmania.
The Tasmanian state government has implemented a number of strategies to offer other housing options, but the wait list remains.
In June this year it was revealed that 17 per cent of those on waiting lists had been waiting for rehousing for up to 18 months with a further eight per cent waiting longer still.
The remaining 75 per cent were waiting for less than a year.
Across the state, as at September 30 this year, there were 59 family violence rapid rehousing properties available in the rapid rehousing program, and for the 2019 to 2020 period 65 households were assisted.
The state government has committed to increasing the rapid housing properties by 20 by June 30 next year.
The state government has committed to increasing the rapid housing properties by 20 by June 30 next year, taking the total to 79.
A government spokesperson said, overall, there were around 546 beds available state-wide for crisis and transitional accommodation - 150 in the North, 144 in the North West and 252 in the South.
You can call Housing Connect on 1800 800 588, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Telephone and online counselling is available at 1800 RESPECT or by calling 1800 737 732.
The Family Violence Counselling and Support Service (FVCSS) is available on 1800 608 122 and available 9am to midnight on weekdays and 4pm to midnight on weekends and public holidays.
To access crisis accommodation through Magnolia Place, contact Housing Connect Launceston on 1800 800 588.
Want to join the push? See the petition to remove legal fees for lodging an interim family violence order here.
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