Story 8: Helping Maggie to Avoid Eviction

2017: Victoria

Since 2014, Justice Connect has delivered the Women’s Homelessness Prevention Project in partnership with pro bono member law firm, Herbert Smith Freehills. The project keeps women and children safely housed through integrated legal representation and social work supports, breaking the links between homelessness, family violence, and financial insecurity.

The Women’s Homelessness Prevention Project exemplifies Justice Connect’s purpose to increase access to legal support and progress social justice, and is designed to apply the organisation’s theory of change. Through the delivery of high-impact holistic services that are co-designed with impacted communities, people can access free support to navigate their legal problems.

Since the launch of the Women’s Homelessness Prevention Project, Herbert Smith Freehills has kindly delivered over 28,000 hours of pro bono legal help. This generous collaboration has enabled Justice Connect to provide wrap-around legal and social work assistance to 977 women and children facing homelessness. 83 per cent of the women helped had experienced family violence.

One of these women is Maggie, a proud Torres Strait Islander woman and single mother. Maggie and her daughter fled family violence in Queensland, arriving in Victoria with just enough money for a taxi to a hostel. Despite moving into transitional housing, the family violence continued, forcing them back into homelessness three times.

When Maggie’s ex-husband failed to pay court-ordered child support, Maggie couldn’t pay her rent on time. She came to Justice Connect for help when her rental provider started eviction proceedings.

Through Justice Connect, pro bono lawyers represented Maggie at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, obtaining more time for her to find new housing. Justice Connect’s social workers then secured funding to pay off the rent arrears and cover moving costs. When Maggie faced eviction again, the pro bono lawyers represented her and avoided her eviction into homelessness.

Eventually, the social worker helped Maggie to secure a new community housing property. Maggie was thrilled to be offered a place where she and her daughter could feel at peace. “It’s like Justice Connect came in with big open wings. You feel like you’re down and then someone comes in and scoops you up to protect you,” reflected Maggie.

Shortly after getting a roof over her head, Maggie graduated from university and now works supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members who are navigating the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal. To hear about her experience with Justice Connect in her own words, watch Maggie’s Story here.

Justice Connect’s Women’s Homelessness Prevention Project has directly prevented evictions into homelessness for 522 women and children, which based on Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute findings equates to $15.4M in cost savings to government.

This story was submitted by Justice Connect.