ALMOST 90% of women suffering domestic violence do not leave home because they have nowhere to go, it has been claimed.
Sharon Cosgrove, the head of Sonas, a charity which provides housing to women and children who are victims of violence in the home, said 88% of women who suffer domestic violence stay because there is no other option.
About 1,104 requests for refuge accommodation are refused annually due to over-stretched services. Of particular concern, she said, is that women who are homeowners, but leave their home because of an abusive partner, are left in a limbo because they are not eligible for homeless services or social housing. This was forcing many to stay in dangerous situations.
The lack of knowledge here about the relationship between domestic violence and homelessness was another area of concern.
“International studies suggest that between 22% and 57% of homeless women are homeless due to domestic violence. So it leads to the question of whether in Ireland we might have similar levels of homelessness due to domestic violence and, if we have, we certainly aren’t capturing domestic violence as the cause,” she said.
“In some local authorities, domestic violence is not even considered as a possible cause to homelessness. Instead, it is hidden within other listed causes such as ‘antisocial behaviour’ and ‘family breakdown’.”
With the level of requests for accommodation increasing over the past number years — it received 45 requests in the first three months of 2009 — the lack of adequate housing for women is another cause for concern for the charity.
Anecdotally, she said, many women were reporting longer stays in refuges due to lack of move-on options into social housing, transitional housing or the private rental sector.
“There is a great need for supported housing because women in domestic violence situations have many needs in relation to safety, health, financial and legal support. Women’s safety is very important at this time as research shows in times of economic downturn domestic violence increases. Women are at greatest risk of homicide when they leave or when they have just left a violent partner.”
Ms Cosgrove said, in the eastern region alone, there is only a fifth of the number of units there should be.
“There is not enough refuge space provision in the eastern region to cater for women. In the existing refuges there are only 31 self-contained family units on offer. To bring it up to EU and UK standards it would need to have 150 refuge units.”
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