Orana House will use its new funding and new office to expand its housing services for women experiencing domestic violence.
A lack of access to safe and affordable housing is a significant barrier for women escaping abusive situations, according to women’s refuge and service provider Orana House.
Among the headline findings of research undertaken by the not-for-profit group was that women who have experienced family domestic violence were being discriminated against in Western Australia’s rental market.
In all, 88 per cent of landlords who responded to Orana’s survey said they were apprehensive about renting property to this cohort of women, for a variety of reasons, including fear of property damage caused by perpetrators.
That’s despite further research having proved incidents such as this were incredibly rare.
“Yet, applications are falling through, women are being dismissed due to having a single income, or because they don’t have enough rental history in their name, often because of coercive control they’ve been under.”
In an effort to secure more housing for FDV victim-survivors and their children, Orana House has begun partnering with the property sector to become ‘impact agents’ for its Housing Families program.
This involves real estate agents, property managers and property owners facilitating priority access and viewings to private rentals for women in refuges, and/or making contribution towards rent top-ups or bond assistance.
In return, Orana offers specialist FDV training to impact agents and their staff. Ms Hutin said working with impact agents had significantly strengthened the Housing Families program.
“We sometimes do subsidised rent where we’ll give fifty or a hundred dollars a week towards someone’s rent, particularly for people working towards employment or if they’re studying, so they can keep moving towards their goals,” she said.
“The cost of living at the moment means anyone on Centrelink payments cannot afford the current rental market.
“We still need a lot of buy-in from local agents and community to help consolidate the work we’ve done and grow that program.
“The more impact agents we can sign on, the more successful the program will be.”
Six impact agents partnered with Orana in March and, since then, have helped house 16 women and 29 children.
Ms Hutin said Orana’s primary objective for 2024 was to at least triple the current number of impact agents.
“The program leans on good relationships with real estate agents because then we can all work together on the same goal,” she said.
“That’s our priority, because the more impact agents we sign on, the more likely we will meet our target of housing 50 women over the next two years.
“That’s where our energy is really focused.”
Orana is set to co-host a breakfast event on November 24 in partnership with property management firm PM Collective to recognise and thank those who have helped provide housing.
Ms Hutin said the event was an opportunity for people working in the property industry to see the positive change they can make for women facing domestic violence.
“It’s about recognising that these women make ideal tenants and they deserve every chance to make a rental property their safe haven,” she said.
“They cherish it like it’s their forever home and they really are the best people you could be offering a rental to in this market.”
The event was coordinated and driven by PM Collective founder Ashleigh Goodchild, who became involved with Orana 18 months ago.
Ms Goodchild has 23 years’ experience in property management and has been working to spread FDV awareness within this community and urge other property managers to partner with Orana as impact agents.
“Property managers are the next step for FDV survivors to regain confidence and establish a new freedom,” Ms Goodchild told Business News.
“The relationships they create with property managers are vital. “Property managers are inside these families’ personal spaces and homes; we are exposed to a lot, hence why we need to be educated in this area.”
Ms Hutin said all proceeds from the breakfast event would go towards the Housing Families program. “It’s the second event of its kind this year that PM Collective has hosted for Orana House,” she said.
“The purpose is really to share some of the success stories we’ve had already with the first six impact agents who signed on in March.
“We’ve housed so many incredible women and their children in that time and seeing what they’ve been able to do to move forward and achieve their goals in terms of returning to work, study, helping their kids settle back in at school, building connections in local community.
“Honestly, just getting out of refuge [has] been incredibly powerful.
“Sharing some of those good news stories helps us all to feel a bit more motivated to get involved in the program, especially when it’s property managers in the same setting as other property managers.”
Meanwhile, philanthropic organisation 100 Women launched a round of funding in September to support organisations working towards empowering and protecting women.
Orana House was announced as one of the grant recipients, winning $50,000 over two years for its Housing Families program.
Orana has further expanded its footprint and strengthened capacity to deliver its services by opening a new office in November in Maylands through a peppercorn lease deal with the City of Bayswater.
The 16 Days in WA campaign, which advocates to end violence against women, starts on November 25 and runs through to December 10.