A domestic violence (DV) victim was evicted from Queensland public housing because a State Government department was more interested in getting rent money than helping her have a safe home, the Queensland Ombudsman has found.
Government documents reveal the Department of Housing took eviction action against the woman, despite her request for a transfer after she fled her home because of domestic violence.
The Ombudsman found the department was more interested in recovering rent, than helping the victim secure a safe place to live.
That was despite pleas from the woman’s DV support workers.
“The department had consistently prioritised rental recovery and eventual eviction action over assisting the tenant to maintain her tenancy,” the Ombudsman said.
In another disturbing case, a woman became homeless despite appealing to the department for help after her partner found her public housing address “and was abusing her”.
The woman asked the department for alternative housing, so her location could be kept a secret.
The Ombudsman found the department “failed to provide suitable accommodation” and “failed to advise her of her tenancy rights” as a DV victim.
Fleeing the situation, the woman became homeless.
In both instances, the Ombudsman was forced to intervene to help the women.
Department aiming to improve dealings with DV victims
In a statement to the ABC, the Department of Housing said it “recognised that these two clients could have been provided better pathways through early intervention, referrals, coordinated support and personalised assistance”.
The department would not say if any other victims of domestic violence had been evicted under similar circumstances.
The department said it had made attempts to contact one of the women to offer further housing assistance, and it working with a second woman to find an appropriate home.
Both woman have had their rental debts removed.
The department said it would implement a “domestic and family violence practice guide” to improve its dealings with DV victims, and that this would include more staff training.
But DV support advocate Shaan Ross-Smith said she was shocked by the women’s treatment and asked for a better explanation of how it happened.
“That’s devastating to hear, absolutely devastating to hear,” she told the ABC.
“I really want to make sure this never happens again.
“When both of the women needed some further support to move from those houses, we need to be able to recognise that and refer people on in a timely matter — it could be a matter of life or death.”
Ms Ross-Smith said she supported the department’s moves to strengthen their policies around domestic violence.
“If you don’t feel safe in your own home, where else can you feel safe?” she said.
“Time isn’t on the side of women escaping domestic violence, they need to move very quickly.
“I really feel like a lot of organisation need some support and information around what to do in these organisations to understand these risk factors for them.”