Justice Connect – Stopping Homelessness Before It Starts
|Manager and Principal Lawyer|
|Homeless Law, Justice Connect|
Justice Connect set up the ground-breaking Women’s Homelessness Prevention Project in 2014 with the support of a philanthropic grant. Over three years, it has assisted 177 women and 267 children in Melbourne at risk of homelessness. By providing robust legal representation and social work support it has achieved an 80% success rate in preventing homelessness.
Justice Connect applied for the 2017-18 signature grant from the Melbourne Women’s Fund at a crucial time. Its initial philanthropic funding was coming to an end and it needed to maintain the momentum of this essential service while securing ongoing funding.
“The MWF Signature grant meant that we could continue to assist women and children at risk of homelessness. It also gave us credibility in those important conversations with potential funders,” said Lucy Adams, Manager and Principal Lawyer for Homeless Law with Justice Connect.
Melbourne Women’s Fund membership was impressed by the impact of this project in creating more positive futures for women and children at serious risk of homelessness.
Although only two lawyers and a part-time social worker at Justice Connect are involved in running the Women’s Homelessness Prevention Project, it trains around sixty lawyers at Herbert Smith Freehills who provide pro bono legal assistance to their clients.
“With our training and support these pro bono lawyers provide a very high standard of legal representation to our clients. They undertake ongoing legal casework (rather than one-off advice) and they advocate for the best possible outcomes for these women and children, including with reference to Victoria’s Human Rights Charter,” says Lucy.
Systemic advocacy is also a key element of Justice Connect’s work. They garner evidence from their experience in assisting women at risk of homelessness and put forward constructive recommendations for change.
“We were very pleased that several of our recommendations were taken up by the Victorian Ombudsman in her October 2017 report on the management of maintenance claims against public housing tenants, and these have been accepted by the Victorian Government,” said Lucy.
Impact of Melbourne Women’s Fund’s support
Since receiving the MWF grant mid 2017, a further 22 women and their children have received help from the Women’s Homelessness Prevention Project.
Justice Connect has also secured partial funding for 2 years from the Victorian Government, as well as new philanthropic support.
“We can now proceed with the second phase of the Women’s Homelessness Prevention Project. We want to develop strong referral networks with services so that we can reach more clients who need our help. As part of exciting new partnerships with Fitted for Work and Good Shepherd ANZ, we will also be collaborating with organisations that provide programs that can benefit our clients into the future – such as financial coaching and economic empowerment,” said Lucy.
Positive experience of Melbourne Women’s Fund
“It has been wonderful to discuss our work with a group of amazing women who are members of MWF. They have provided valuable insights, advice and connections. A couple of MWF members have also helped us with our fundraising. The short video made about our work, (which wis provided to all MWF finalists, was a very generous and useful gift to Justice Connect. It’s posted on our website and we linked to it in a recent submission to the Law Council of Australia,” said Lucy.
“We all loved being a part of MWF’s grants award evening. There was a sense of excitement and we felt everyone was so supportive and interested in our work. It was also very special having our client Maggie and her daughter there sharing their courageous and inspiring story after years of family violence and homelessness.
“The legal justice area is not always at the forefront of philanthropy but it has such huge potential to stop problems like homelessness before they start, especially when done in collaboration with other organisations and professionals like social workers. I want to thank all the Melbourne Women’s Fund members for their support,” concluded Lucy.
Recent Success Story
A few weeks before Christmas, a woman in her 70’s and her daughter were facing eviction from public housing due to breaches associated with hoarding. Their efforts to address the breach had been hampered by grief due to a recent bereavement. Justice Connect Homeless Law was asked to assist three days before the VCAT hearing. The Women’s Homelessness Prevention Project’s pro bono lawyers assisted with the legal matter and achieved an adjournment, so that the social worker could arrange bereavement support and assistance from a specialist service that helps people with hoarding problems. Without help from the Project, the women would have been evicted and would have resorted to living in their car.
Maggie was very heartened by the MWF members’ response to her story at the grant awards evening. This encouraged her to share her story on video to promote the work of the Women’s Homelessness Prevention Project in transforming the lives of the women and children they help. You can watch Maggie’s video here and read her story here.
For more information about Justice Connect, please visit their website at https://www.justiceconnect.org.au/