Support for families still homeless after COVID

Homes 4 Families is an intensive support program for families experiencing homelessness and accommodated in crisis accommodation during the COVID pandemic. 

The program, funded by the Victorian government, is transitioning families that had been placed in motels and hotels during lockdown, into other accommodation.  

McAuley is supporting 16 families across the western suburbs including Ballarat. There are 42 children involved in the program. The families have all experienced family violence and have a documented medical issue or a disability. 

During the first phase of the program, the families are re-housed by community housing providers Uniting and Unison. The support team work closely together to address barriers to long term housing . This includes linking them to health and medical services, NDIS, parenting support, employment, financial counselling and legal support so they will be in a better position to sustain housing.  

McAuley also helps with things such as transitioning children who have had their education significantly disrupted back to school. One 14-year-old, for example, had missed almost a year of schooling while her family were experiencing homelessness; there was considerable liaison needed with a new school to help understand and deal with her unique circumstances and ease her back after such a long interruption. 

The families are dealing with very difficult life events. This includes one family who in a very short time had gone through multiple traumas: the jailing of their father who was dealing with addiction, the death of the mother’s new partner who was violent, and then the burning down of their family home. The trauma for families such as this is complex and multilayered. 

Another single mother has been struggling to care for a child with complex physical and cognitive disabilities during the period she lived in highly unsuitable crisis accommodation; even now, their transitional housing is far from ideal while the family also struggle with delays in NDIS assessment. 

In some situations mothers have lost access to their children with the unstable housing situation being a major factor. McAuley has worked to support their re-unification. One family were torn apart by grief after the death of one of their children six years ago. The two youngest children were placed into the care of their maternal grandmother as the mother’s own mental health struggled after his death. 

This was very difficult for the youngest child especially. The mother gave the youngest child a simple rock and told her that when she is lonely to hold the rock and the mother will be with her. 

The mother noticed when visiting with her child that the child has bags and bags full of similar rocks, collecting hundreds of them in her bedroom trying to be closer to her mother. 

The family are now together again. Last Christmas McAuley provided presents as they celebrated together for the first time since the tragic passing of the eldest child.