Update: Women's Homelessness Prevention Project

21 July 2014
The Women's Homelessness Prevention Project (WHPP) is an initiative of Justice Connect Homeless Law that aims to keep women and children in housing through a combination of legal representation and social work support

Integrated service model: focusing on preventing homelessness

In April 2014 the WHPP commenced its weekly outreach clinic at a library in the Melbourne CBD for women at risk of homelessness. The clinics are staffed by pro bono lawyers and a social worker, with additional support from a children's librarian who can care for clients' children during the scheduled appointment.

Women attending the clinic receive legal advice and ongoing representation from a lawyer in relation to the legal issue which is placing the client at risk of homelessness. In addition, a WHPP social worker assesses clients' non-legal needs and provides intensive ongoing social work assistance with a view to transitioning clients to any long-term support services they may benefit from (for example, health services, financial counselling, education and employment).

The WHPP also gathers data and insights about the factors pushing women into homelessness. It will present recommendations for systemic change informed by this direct casework.

Client profile: who is the WHPP assisting?

  • Since the WHPP outreach clinics began on 8 April 2014, 10 women have received ongoing legal advice and representation as well as assistance from the social worker with non-legal issues.
  • To date, the most common legal issue confronting WHPP’s clients is rent arrears. Eight of the 10 women assisted were facing eviction from housing as a result of falling behind with their rent.
  • In total, the 10 women assisted had 18 children living in their care.
  • Of the 10 clients, 6 are living in private rental, 2 are in public housing, 1 is in transitional housing, and another woman is in a community housing operated rooming house.
  • All 10 women have a history of family violence from intimate partners and several have also experienced family violence as children from their mothers or fathers. All 10 of the women have a mental health diagnosis of depression and anxiety. In addition, 3 of the women have complex medical issues.

The outcomes: preventing evictions and linking with supports

In the clinic’s first 2 months of operation, we have already seen the role combined legal and social work services can play in preventing evictions into homelessness.

To date, the WHPP has successfully saved the tenancies of 5 women and their families who were facing eviction for rental arrears. Five of the WHPP clients have attended VCAT hearings where they were represented by pro bono lawyers. In 2 matters, clients have been provided with legal advice and representation in relation to breach and compensation matters that were jeopardising their tenancies or their ability to access alternative housing.

In addition to these legal outcomes, the WHPP social worker has worked closely with the women in order to assess their non-legal needs and link them to a range of services, including financial counselling, family violence support services, private rental brokerage, food and clothing assistance programs, housing access agencies, and education and engagement programs.

Referring clients to the WHPP outreach clinic

Appointments through the WHPP can be made using the Homeless Law central booking number: 1800 606 313 (free call from landlines).

If a client is eligible for the WHPP, she will receive legal representation with the tenancy issue and social work support.

Homeless Law also helps clients who are homeless or at risk of homelessness with other legal issues outside the WHPP. These include eviction matters, fines and infringements related to homelessness, credit and debt matters and guardianship and administration orders.

If in doubt about eligibility, please call us.

Want to know more?

Homeless Law recently released a snap shot report on the WHPP's first two months of operation. Click here to view the report.