Safe haven for violence victims

By Kyra Gillespie

Plans for a transitional housing facility for women and children fleeing domestic violence are one step closer to fruition, following a unanimous vote for the development by councillors on Monday 16 July.

The housing, earmarked for Main Street Pakenham, will provide short term accommodation for women and children who are homeless or at risk of homelessness due to current or immediate family violence.

“Domestic violence continues to be a horrific problem in our shire,” Cr Michael Schilling said.

“There were 3-4 incidences occurring per day in Cardinia during 2014-15, with children present 40 per cent of the time.

“Through Together We Can we have seen a reduction of reported cases, yet there are still women and children out there who are vulnerable.

“This facility will give them the chance to get back on their feet, and have a place they can call their home in the meantime.”

The facility will provide security, stability and support for tenants focused on life skills development, community connectedness and access to resources.

There will be ten units comprising of two, three and four bedroom apartments.

There will also be a support office to accommodate workers and provide space for small group activities and counselling services.

The 2016 Royal Commission into Family Violence found that family violence often results in homelessness and in many cases, victims feel they have no alternative but to remain in, or return to, abusive relationships.

“The time that women are most vulnerable to violence is when they tell their spouse or family that they are leaving due to violence,” Mayor Cr Collin Ross said.

“If they don’t have somewhere safe to go they are at a higher risk of experiencing violence.

“It’s enormous for council to take a lead in this space; it’s very easy to talk the talk, but many councils don’t put money where their mouth is.

“We are actually taking the issue on board and I can’t wait to see results at the end.”

The site is in walking distance to schools, services and transport, as well as the new Pakenham Health Centre and the Living and Learning centre.

The Peter and Lyndy White Foundation, WAYSS, Windermere and Cardinia Shire Council have partnered in the project, with WAYSS being the leading partner.

It is proposed council will enter a long term lease of the property for 50 years with WAYSS.

Cr Brett Owen was dubious about council’s role in the development at the July 16 meeting.

“How much is this facility going to cost in upkeep?” Cr Owen asked.

“It’s a massive commitment over to maintain these dwellings 50 years when other levels of government are not stepping up to the plate.”

Despite minor debate in the council chambers, the development was unanimously carried.

A planning application has been submitted and is currently being managed by Council’s Planning department.

Documents are currently in the draft to be finalised by 31 July.

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