CRISIS accommodation for Shoalhaven women and their children escaping domestic violence is virtually non-existent according to the manager of a local intervention service.
Sue Davies, the co-ordinator of the Nowra Domestic Violence Intervention Services, run by YWCA NSW at the Nowra Police Station, fears many victims are going back into domestic violence situations simply because they have nowhere else to go.
Twice in the past two weeks she has been unable to find safe accommodation for women and their children escaping domestic violence.
One victim was forced to pay for her own motel, while another woman with two children spent the night on the floor of an office at the Nowra Police Station.
Ms Davies has questioned the effectiveness of the Link 2 Home assistance line introduced last July to help find accommodation for domestic violence victims.
“Historically we would ring the DV hotline and organise crisis accommodation,” she said.
“If we could not find any, we could stretch our budget and have in the past paid for accommodation.
“We had a wonderful relationship with Housing NSW and they would often put victims in a motel and pay for it if it was a police driven domestic violence event and we verified it.
“But this new system, initiated as part of the Going Home Staying Home (GHSH) reform, just doesn’t seem to be working.”
On both recent occasions Ms Davies contacted local refuges, which had no rooms available.
“I contacted the Link 2 Home and was told they could not speak to me, they needed to speak to the victim,” she said.
“I asked the worker to contact the police officer in charge, who was with the victim at the time.
“I received a call from the officer about an hour later who was irate because the Link 2 Home worker had rung and questioned the officer at length and then in her words ‘interrogated’ the victim for a further 20 minutes, asking many questions that did not seem relevant or appropriate at the time of trauma.
“The victim was then told they would not be able to assist her.
“Due to the fact it was late and the family was distressed, the woman used the last of her funds to pay for a motel for the night.
“As she fled without a phone and car, I sought approval for the YWCA DVIS budget to cover the cost of three nights’ accommodation, which would enable the family safety and a roof over their heads until the woman could attend Housing NSW.”
In the other situation, again there were no vacancies at the refuges and calls to Link 2 Home again failed to provide assistance.
“Out of desperation, the woman and her children stayed in the domestic violence office at the Nowra station, the woman sleeping in a chair and the children on the floor,” Ms Davies said.
“When I arrived at work the next working the woman and children were gone. I was told they had gone to get breakfasts but they never came back.
“I can only assume they went back to the home and possibly into the same situation.
“How are we supposed to do our jobs and help these women trying to escape domestic violence when there is nothing out there to help us?
“We are on call at evening and weekends to assist police with DV victims and are often asked to assist to find these families safe accommodation.
“The DVIS is not a homelessness service and does not have the funds to pay for accommodation.
“I don’t believe this system is working and we wonder as a society why victims of family violence return to the perpetrator.”
Originally published as Domestic violence victim forced to sleep in Nowra Police Station by South Coast Register.