About Safe Houses (Refuge)
Safe Houses (sometimes called Refuge or Women’s Shelters) provide safe and secure accommodation for women and children escaping domestic violence in their homes or community.
In order to maintain security and safety, the location and details of safe accommodation are confidential and not available to the public, and it is a condition of entering most refuges that you understand that you cannot reveal the location of the refuge to ANYONE – including your family.
Placement in a safe house can be arranged by contacting DVConnect Womensline on 1800 811 811
Staff who work in safe houses specialise in supporting women and children during this difficult time and can offer accommodation referral services, advocacy, emotional support, support with legal matters and other support services.
Most safe houses in Queensland receive funding by the Government and are operated by dedicated professional women through a variety of church and community based organisations.
How long can I stay at the safe house?
In most cases as long as you need to; but it will depend on you and to some extent the various circumstances or facilities available at the safe house.
Some women only stay for a few days, and others stay several months.
Some women stay in safe houses for a break from the violence, to allow themselves time and space to think away from the abuse, and may decide to return home to try again.
Many others use their stay in safe accommodation to plan for the next stage of their life and arrange longer-term, safe accommodation in order to start a ‘new life’.
What are safe houses like?
There are different styles of safe accommodation. Some provide a self-contained family unit with your own small kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. Others offer a more communal style house where you will have your own room for yourself and your children, and other areas will be shared by the other women and children staying there.
Many women form supportive friendships with the other women in safe accommodation, but some people prefer to keep to themselves. It is your choice.
Safe houses have their own codes of conduct regarding the day-to-day running of the house, which will usually cover things like bedtimes for children, incoming telephone calls, cleaning and laundry.
Safe accommodation will not allow women to stay if they have any problems with abusing drugs or alcohol. Nor are they able to provide accommodation for family pets *Please note there are a small number of shelters or safe houses in Queensland that can accommodate family pets.
How do I arrange safe accommodation (refuge)?
Call DVConnect Womensline 1800 811 811.
A counsellor will need to speak with you personally and will ask you details about your current situation.
The questions may seem quite personal but it is important you are honest with the counsellor so she can support you in the best way and ensure your safety.
Counsellors are not able to book accommodation in advance for you, or guarantee that there will be space in the location of your choice. Counsellors work on the principle of getting women to the nearest safe accommodation available. Safe houses are, unfortunately, in high demand, and spaces offered will be determined by vacancies currently available. Counsellors will never place you in areas that are unsafe or where you will be at further risk of abuse (e.g. near where your partner lives, works, socialises) – they will ensure you are away from any potential risks to your children’s safety.
Your counsellor will also assist you in travelling safely to safe accommodation.
Please remember -It is very important that you keep all information about this process confidential, not just for you, but for all women and children in safe houses.
What can I take with me?
Safe accommodation houses do not have facilities to store furniture or personal effects; you will only be able to take some basic necessities and a few personal belongings such as clothing, jewellery and small items of sentimental value, photographs, children’s favourite toys and toiletries
As a guide, and if you are safely able to plan ahead you should collect as many of your personal identification and legal documents as possible: e.g.:- Drivers License, passports, visas and work permits, Centrelink details, birth certificates for you and your children, money, bankbooks, cheque book and credit cards, mortgage details or rental agreements, Insurance documents and car registration documents. School and medical records, including the telephone numbers of the school and your GP or surgery. Any medication or prescriptions, current unpaid bills, your address book / diary and keys (house, car, office)
If you have to get to safe accommodation in an emergency and do not have your basic belongings with you, the police may be able to do a `retrieval’ of your belongings the following day, in conjunction with your safe house worker. Speak to a DVConnect Womensline counsellor or refuge worker if this is required.
What can’t I take to emergency safe accommodation?
Please talk to your DVConnect counsellor if this could help you. All arrangements for Pets in Crisis have to made through DVConnect Womensline.
Safe houses are sensitive to different cultures and religions and will, where ever possible, accommodate the needs of people to participate in their religion.
Where privacy and security is assured our counsellors will also link people to cultural specific services where people can obtain interpreter services and phone or face to face support in such things as legal and immigration matters.
Shelters are also sensitive to dietary needs of different cultures and they can, for example, take people to culturally specific food outlets like butchers and supermarkets.
What do I do about money and rent?
Most safe houses require a weekly contribution to cover their costs. This amount varies from safe house to safe house but usually it is a percentage of your weekly income.
You may need to contact Centrelink to change your details. You may be entitled to an Emergency Payment (which you do not have to repay). This is payable if you have had to leave your home due to domestic violence and is to assist with the cost of re-establishing your home. If you have not already arranged this with Centrelink you can speak to your safe accommodation worker about it.
If you are in full or part-time employment, but need to go into refuge as a result of domestic violence, consider discussing your situation (in confidence) with your manager or supervisor. You may be able to arrange some time off work which could be allocated as annual or sick leave.
If you leave full or part-time employment in order to relocate and move into refuge accommodation, your rights to Centrelink benefit may be affected. You will need to discuss this with Centrelink or a refuge worker as soon as you move into the safe location.
What about my permanent housing situation?
You can leave the safe house at any point either to return home, or you may decide you want to re-establish yourself elsewhere. The choice is yours, and shelter workers will help you to decide what you want to do. They will also tell you how to get advice regarding joint property and mortgage agreements.
Do not agree to sign any documents relating to the tenancy or ownership of your home until you have received legal advice.