Thank you to our media partner Primary Communications for generating the amazing media outcomes for the UNSEEN Project

MEDIA RELEASE

MEDIA RELEASE

“Disastrous” homelessness impact on women with disabilities

 

(Sydney – Thursday, 9th December 2021) Homelessness is having a disastrous impact on women with disabilities, according to new research by the UNSEEN Project.

The UNSEEN Project was initiated by social documentarian Belinda Mason (BLUR Projects), in collaboration with the Women’s Electoral Lobby NSW, and has been designed to enable women to tell their stories of housing insecurity. Their stories are just some of some of the State’s 15,000  women experiencing homelessness. UNSEEN provides a unique platform for women of all ages to share their lived experiences.

Artist and Paralympian, Caitlin*, 44, became homeless in February 2020 when floodwater engulfed her home, badly damaging the property and taking with it much of her prized possessions. She said finding suitable temporary accommodation was near impossible.

“My home was no longer habitable. The difficulty was, within the context of insurance I was simply a name and an insurance claim number. This process meant I had to advise, explain, and justify my disability access needs in relation to arranging accessible accommodation every single time,” Caitlin said.

This week Caitlin brings her canvas to the UNSEEN Arts Hub which she hopes will help people understand the diversity of people who become homeless, and why.

“Homelessness does happen to women with disability and exacerbates disability. It’s a complete blind spot because it is seen as too hard or not relevant to a particular issue like homelessness. People have a naive view that women with disability are looked after and protected, we are not,” Caitlin added.

“It is so hard to share story because I never thought I would become a statistic any more than what I was already – being a woman with physical disability, cerebral palsy. The impact homelessness has on people with disabilities can be disastrous, and it’s an issue often overlooked, we are just swept under the carpet and some hope that we go away.”

The UNSEEN Project features a small mobile cottage and car, located at Circular Quay as an art installation and performance space, sharing the unique experiences of thousands of women in NSW who have had to endure homelessness. The house highlights the lack of affordable private rental and social housing, while the car exposes the hidden nature of women’s homelessness. This month’s art installation at Circular Quay continues until December 23rd before moving into regional NSW in the new year.

“Women feel shame in coming forward, therefore they are invisible and uncounted. This is even more complex for women with disability. Changing attitudes around who becomes homeless and why is the first step in breaking the silence women maintain through shame, fear and stigma,” said Blue Projects social documentarian Belinda Mason.

“The recent Home at Last report refers to disability mainly in terms of aged-related disability. The report speaks about people with disability as competitors to older people seeking accessible and affordable housing, but it does not speak to the needs of women with disability who also become older women. Too many times women with disability, are left out of, or placed on the fringes of conversations about social change.”

Nationally, more than 50,000 Australian women are homeless and another 400,000 over 45 are at risk of becoming homeless. Older women are the fastest growing group of homeless people in Australia. In NSW, between 2011 and 2016 the number of women aged 55 and over experiencing homelessness increased by 48% and the number aged between 65 and 74 experiencing homelessness increased by 78%.

“There is not enough support for women with disability to allow them to establish a sense of belonging when they face housing insecurity and homelessness,” said Monique Wiseman, Senior Aboriginal Project Officer, Homelessness NSW.

“In some ways, it is half a commitment because only one aspect of a women’s identity – being disability – is supported. Recognising the diversity and complexity of financial abuse, domestic violence, and discrimination which women with disability are exposed to when facing housing insecurity and homelessness should be taken into consideration when supporting their needs. Whether women with disability have access to the NDIS or not, there is not clear a pathway to support women with disability seeking safe and accessible housing.”

ENDS

 

*Caitlin is a pseudonym used for safety reasons. Sadly, the need to protect identity is the case for many women with disability and part of their inability to speak out for fear of being judged, patronised, and bullied due to covert and overt ableism. Hence, UNSEEN is providing an opportunity for women with disability to have their stories heard in a safe environment.

The UNSEEN project is led by internationally recognised social documentarian Belinda Mason of Blur Projects. The Women’s Electoral Lobby has established a portal through the National Foundation for Australian Women to facilitate tax-deductible donations for the UNSEEN Project at https://nfaw.org/preferred-donors/#1616555139473-bab9be84-4175  and for the Women Ageing Well campaign at https://nfaw.org/preferred-donors/#1616555330800-3a19a6b1-70e3.

 

If you, or anyone you know, needs support please contact the below services:

To find out more about UNSEEN, visit https://unseen.house/

MEDIA RELEASE

The UNSEEN project reveals COVID19 pandemic caused a surge in women’s homelessness

 

(Sydney – Wednesday, 1st December) The COVID19 pandemic has led to a surge in the number of homeless women in NSW and the UNSEEN project says the impacts of the pandemic will be longstanding.

UNSEEN is led by social documentarian Belinda Mason of BLUR Projects, in collaboration with the Women’s Electoral Lobby NSW, and has been designed with women to tell real stories of some of the State’s 15,000 homeless women. It provides a unique platform for women of all ages to share their true experiences.

The December program across the Sydney CBD coincides with the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (25th November to 10th December). A small mobile cottage and car will be located at Circular Quay as an art installation and performance space, sharing the unique experiences of thousands of women in NSW who have had to endure homelessness. The house highlights the lack of affordable private rental and social housing, while the car exposes the hidden nature of women’s homelessness.

This month’s art installation begins at Circular Quay on Wednesday, December 1st and will conclude on December 23rd. On Friday, December 3rd, Ageing on the Edge will launch its homelessness report at the UNSEEN Arts Hub. The UNSEEN project will move to Regional NSW in mid-2022.

The UNSEEN Project has found that by comparing March 2020 (start of the pandemic) to March 2021 there had been a 5.9% increase in the number of women seeking specialist homelessness services, who had experienced domestic violence.

UNSEEN says COVID has exacerbated gender inequalities. LGBTQI+ people are at least twice as likely as heterosexual people to experience homelessness and people who identify as bisexual are much more likely to have at least five repeated experiences of homelessness.

Sera, 51, became homeless when experiencing domestic violence from a same sex partner, and finding a safe place to stay has been near impossible.

“The COVID-19 pandemic made me a target for those not coping with the lockdown restrictions. Today I am in survival mode, as I am back in an unsafe, traumatic, and violent environment – not by my own choosing but by a system that has placed me there. I recently moved from accommodation that I felt unsafe to another accommodation which was even worse,” she said.

Nationally, more than 50,000 Australian women are homeless and another 400,000 over 45 are at risk, with domestic violence and financial abuse being the largest causes. Older women are the fastest growing group of homeless people in Australia. In NSW, between 2011 and 2016 the number of women aged 55 and over experiencing homelessness increased by 48% and the number aged between 65 and 74 experiencing homelessness increased by 78%.

“It is time for the unseen voices of women who experiencing homelessness to be heard. As a society we have been a part of the problem and we now need to be a part of the solution,” said Monique Wiseman, Senior Aboriginal Project Officer, Homelessness NSW.

“No longer should women experiencing housing insecurity remain silent and unseen. Nor should women live in fear of becoming homeless without access support and a safe space to lay their head. COVID-19 has brought to light the reality of who becomes homeless and why and the impact the pandemic has had in regional Australia. The UNSEEN project gives voice to those who has been silenced and unseen by a system that has failed them.”

Delia Donovan, CEO, Domestic Violence NSW, agreed that the impact of Covid-19 on women and children experiencing domestic and family violence will last much longer than the pandemic itself. with long-term effects including loss of income, increased violence, and trauma.

“For some it will be the start of many years of recovery from trauma made harder by the fact there is so little access to safe and affordable housing. The Covid pandemic will, in reality, become a homelessness pandemic for survivors,” she said.

Family and domestic violence is the main cause of homelessness for women and the main reason they seek crisis accommodation.

  • 1 in 4 women have experienced emotional abuse by a current or previous partner since the age of 15
  • 1 in 5 women have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15
  • 1 in 6 women were physically or sexually abused before the age of 15
  • 1 in 6 women have experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or previous partner since the age of 15
  • It is estimated that 80% of women who experienced domestic violence have experienced economic abuse
  • Only 3.2% of women seeking crisis accommodation are receiving the long-term housing solutions they need, with thousands nationally returning to perpetrators or becoming homeless.

Research on the long-term housing needs of women and children escaping domestic and family violence indicates 16, 810 social housing units are needed nationally.

ENDS

If you, or anyone you know, needs support please contact the below services:

 

The UNSEEN project is led by internationally recognised social documentarian Belinda Mason of Blur Projects.
The Women’s Electoral Lobby has established a portal through the National Foundation for Australian Women to facilitate tax-deductible donations for the UNSEEN Project at
https://nfaw.org/preferred-donors/#1616555139473-bab9be84-4175  and for the Women Ageing Well campaign at https://nfaw.org/preferred-donors/#1616555330800-3a19a6b1-70e3.

 

To find out more about UNSEEN, visit https://unseen.house/

MEDIA RELEASE

UNSEEN highlights blind spots in women’s ‘hidden homelessness’ conversations

(Sydney – Monday, 17th May 2021)

It’s the May installation of UNSEEN and this month will focus on 2 key issues – the effect of domestic violence on women and homelessness  as May is Domestic Violence Prevention Month and also International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. This month’s UNSEEN Arts Hub exhibition will launch next Monday in Martin Place and run for the entire week sharing two stories of women who found themselves unexpectedly homeless. What we do know is, family and domestic violence is a main cause of homelessness for women, Evie shares how escaping violence is not easy when landlords won’t rent to a single woman with a child.

Evie, who lives in regional NSW was a victim of DV for more than 10 years, came from a religious family and went back to them when she left a violent relationship, taking their 5-year-old son with her. Evie was given little support, including from her pastor. The catalyst for this choice was the decision of her grandmother, two years earlier, to suicide rather than remain in an abusive relationship.  With bleak view of a long and toxic marriage, she found the courage to leave the family home and become homeless. However, as she was homeless as she was unable to secure housing as a single mum. Even when she found a flexible job where she could still care for her child, she was still unable to find a rental property on her own. Evie had to resort to asking her ex-partner to co-sign of the lease.

“I had to unlearn the shame of domestic violence” – Evie

What is less know is the workplace discrimination that impacts on the lives and livelihoods of transwomen driving women like Gina into homelessness.Gina moved to Australia from Samoa to work in the hospitality industry over twenty years ago. Sadly, she quickly discovered unlike Samoa, Australia was not as accepting of transwomen in the workplace. The public outing resulted in overt and covert discrimination with her work hours reduced to a level that she could no longer sustain her rent.  This experience was repeated, and she found herself homeless.

“So I went and lived on the streets, but it’s funny because I felt like I didn’t get the memo about the code for how to dress as a homeless person.  I used to dress up as a secretary always wearing smart suits, because that is what I did when I was working. I’d just walked around the street, in my four inch, or six inch high heels… stilettos, and my blanket’s wrapped on top of it. I looked the same, like you see me today. People didn’t belie me when I told them I was homeless, it made it harder to get support. The circumstancing of becoming homeless is traumatic enough, the your find yourself traumatized again  when you become homeless. Being homelesstrauma is something that some people refuse to talk about or to acknowledge. That is one of the things hovering over and that make them even more difficult to take the first step into accessing services and finding the resources that could help them. It is traumatic being homelessness, Is a trauma that some people refuse to talk about or to acknowledge. That is one of the things hovering over and that make them even more difficult to take the first step into accessing services and finding the resources that could help them.When you have had a traumatising experience like homelessness, it takes time to heal, learn and grow. Now I can share my experience and recovery as I am healed” – Gina

The AIHW says 1 in 3 of the women and girls experiencing domestic and family violence went to homelessness services/refuges needing accommodation and were unable to be housed. The 1 in 3 figure comes from Table FDV.3  in the 2020/2021 AIHW Report.

  • In 2019–20, 41% of all people using homelessness services (119,200 people) had experienced family and domestic violence. Women were 90% of adult clients
  • Over 1 in 3 (36%) people using homelessness services who had experienced domestic violence were under the age of 18
  • One-third (18,000) of the 54,000 women and girls seeking accommodation to escape violence last year were unable to be housed (national stat referenced here)
  • LGBTI people are at least twice as likely as heterosexuals to experience homelessness
  • A survey carried out by the Victorian Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby in 2019, that revealed that 47.5% of LGBTQI persons surveyed had experienced homelessness, housing insecurity, or had been at risk of homelessness
  • 40% of the respondents had reported discrimination against them in the housing market
  • Among trans and gender diverse persons, the numbers were worse, with 79% experiencing homelessness in some form and 62.5% being subjected to discrimination while accessing the housing market. For Intersex persons 50 % had experienced homelessness and 75% faced discrimination.

 

ENDS

If you, or anyone you know, needs support please contact the below services:

 

The UNSEEN project is led by internationally recognised social documentarian Belinda Mason of Blur Projects.
The Women’s Electoral Lobby has established a portal through the National Foundation for Australian Women to facilitate tax-deductible donations for the UNSEEN Project at 
https://nfaw.org/preferred-donors/#1616555139473-bab9be84-4175  and for the Women Ageing Well campaign at https://nfaw.org/preferred-donors/#1616555330800-3a19a6b1-70e3.

 

To find out more about UNSEEN, visit https://unseen.house/

MEDIA RELEASE  – Sydney – Thursday, 15th April

UNSEEN project reveals girls as young as 12 are among Australia’s homeless

In the lead-up to Youth Week, the UNSEEN collaborative arts project is this month inviting Australians to visit a tiny house to truly understand the experience of girls as young as 12 who are without a home.

The UNSEEN project is led by social documentarian Belinda Mason from BLUR Projects, in collaboration with the Women’s Electoral Lobby NSW, and has been designed with women to tell real stories of some of the State’s 15,000 homeless women. It provides a unique platform for women of all ages to share their true experiences.

From April through to December, a tiny mobile cottage and car will be moved through the Sydney CBD, as an art installation and performance space sharing the unique experiences of thousands of women in NSW who have had to endure homelessness. The tiny house highlights the lack of affordable private rental and social housing, while the car exposes the hidden nature of women’s homelessness. This month’s art installation, in Martin Place until Friday 16 April, coincides with Sexual Assault Awareness Month and occurs in the lead-up to Youth Homelessness Matters Day.

Jess, now 29, was removed from her mother’s care at just 13 and experienced homelessness from a very young age and, in fact, through her entire youth.

“I was just 14 when I first became homeless. For me, living without a home meant being on the street and relying heavily on the kindness of strangers who eventually became like the friends and family I never had. Being so young, and not even at working age, made it incredibly terrifying as I also had no income to find housing – navigating a fully-fledged adult life at 14 is just not doable,” Jess said.

Homelessness in Australia has been on the rise in recent years. The number of women counted in the Census as experiencing homelessness in NSW increased by 75% in the 10 years from 2006 to 2016. Alarming too is just how many young Australians are becoming homeless, with authorities confirming there is a close link between violence against women (including sexual assault) and homelessness.

“While varying circumstances lead to women experiencing homelessness, women and children fleeing family, domestic and sexual violence are the largest group in need of emergency and ongoing social housing,” said Head of Women’s Safety NSW, Hayley Foster.

First Nations woman Roshee Taylor, 55, as a child was subjected to neglect and sexual assault. The trauma led to her homelessness. Living in transitional housing now, she is using her experience to advocate for change and to help children and young people who may be in similar situations.

“During April, I will be performing as part of UNSEEN. This will involve working with a group of children aged 7 to 13 to craft messages on paper dolls to homeless people, which will be placed on the tiny house. It is a way to build awareness, reduce stigma and create a community of support through art,” she said.

 

Her story is a far too familiar across Australia, with:

 

  • 1 in 5 young people revealing they couch-surfed from as young as 12 years of age
  • 19,000 children aged 0-14 years being homeless in Australia, every night
  • 1 in 6 young people aged 15-19 experiencing homelessness, 25% of these are in NSW alone
  • 62% of young people experiencing homelessness being female

 

“What we are seeing, is a disturbing increase in the number of young women without a home. This should not be the case. It’s patently clear that this serious growing issue of homelessness among women of all ages can be, in part at least, offset by a policy shift from governments to ensure there is necessary funding to enable access to suitable emergency and social housing for women at risk,” said Dr Jane Bullen, Social Policy Researcher with the Women’s Electoral Lobby.

Jess added that she has only recently secured housing under her own name, and with it has come a renewed sense of confidence but many unexpected challenges.

“It took me more than 10 years to secure support and housing. That’s my entire teenage years. If it wasn’t for the support of friends and the Sydney Street Choir, I am not sure what may have happened. With housing, I feel safer, a lot calmer and I’m not constantly living in fear. But it isn’t without its struggles. There are so many life skills I am yet to learn because of the basic needs I didn’t have in the past. Homelessness needs to be worked out. There are too many people like me that have mental health issues and disability issues that are being neglected and not helped, especially youth. I really think this is a hidden issue that can only be fixed if we shine the light on it.”

 

If you, or anyone you know, needs support please contact the below services:

ENDS

 

For safe reporting on violence against women please follow Our Watch guidelines.

*All supplied images are for general use by media with credit Photo by Belinda Mason (UNSEEN Project Lead Artist)

 

 

Backgrounder

The UNSEEN project is led by internationally recognised social documentarian Belinda Mason from Blur Projects.
The Women’s Electoral Lobby has established a portal through the National Foundation for Australian Women to facilitate tax-deductible donations for the UNSEEN Project at
https://nfaw.org/preferred-donors/#1616555139473-bab9be84-4175  and for the Women Ageing Well campaign at https://nfaw.org/preferred-donors/#1616555330800-3a19a6b1-70e3.

 

To find out more about UNSEEN, visit https://unseen.house/

MEDIA RELEASE (Sydney – Monday, 8th March) 

UNSEEN reveals the hidden experiences of 15,000 homeless women in NSW

Launching today on International Women’s Day in Circular Quay, the UNSEEN project shares the hidden experiences of thousands of women without a home.
UNSEEN is a collaborative arts project designed with women and led by BLUR Projects and the Women’s Electoral Lobby, which will highlight real stories of some of the State’s 15,000 homeless women. Homelessness in Australia has been on the rise in recent years. The number of women counted in the Census as experiencing homelessness in NSW increased by 75% in the 10 years from 2006 – 2016; from 8565 to 15,010. It is widely expected that the next Census in March this year will show another steep increase. UNSEEN is about putting stories and faces to these figures, and to drive change.

“We’re encouraging Australians to forget everything you think you know about women and homelessness, because this is likely the tip of the iceberg. Homelessness in women is often invisible. By bringing real women’s experiences to life and sharing their journeys, we can make this hidden issue seen, understood, and prevented,” said Monique Wiseman, from Homelessness NSW.

A solar-powered mobile cottage will move throughout the Sydney CBD, acting as an everchanging pop-up gallery and performance space for BLUR Projects artists. Part of the display (beginning today) will be a car with a mirror finish, showing images of women who have experienced homelessness on each window, representing the vehicles women are often forced to call home and the invisibility of their lives.

“UNSEEN provides a unique platform for women who have experienced, or are experiencing, homelessness to share their truth. They have come from many different parts of our community, and their experiences of homelessness are diverse,” BLUR Projects Lead Artist, Belinda Mason, said.

While women of all ages experience homelessness, women over 55 years are the fastest growing cohort among homeless, increasing 31% from 2011-2016 in Australia. In NSW alone, there was an increase of 48% for women over 55 and a 78% increase in women over 65.

“Women’s economic, and other inequality, create disadvantage in accessing housing, including housing insecurity and homelessness,” said Dr Jane Bullen, Social Policy Researcher with the Women’s Electoral Lobby.

“Domestic violence, housing crisis, inadequate dwelling conditions and financial difficulties are just some of the circumstances that can lead to women experiencing homelessness. We know COVID-19 has adversely impacted women and their housing security, particularly for women living with violence and women who have lost income. 40 per cent of people requesting assistance from specialist homelessness agencies have experienced domestic violence, and these are, overwhelmingly, women and children.”

Dr Bullen adds that on top of the past year’s challenges, many women do not reach out to housing support services.

“Many women do not access housing services due to a fear of stigmatisation, and a concern that services may be unsafe or not lead to long-term housing. That said, women’s homelessness may be unrecorded and its extent obscured.”

Fiona, a 62-year-old woman from Sydney featuring in UNSEEN, said there is so much more than meets the eye in relation to homelessness.

“I think the idea of homelessness usually brings up images of someone sleeping rough on a park bench or lining up at a street van, because this is what we have seen. But this wasn’t the case for me and isn’t the case for so many women. It’s an incredibly isolating place to be, functioning day to day. I spent most nights in a library until it closed just to feel safe and a part of a community,” Fiona said.

She added that since accessing secure housing her life has completely changed and she feels confident about the future. She wants people to know change is possible.

“I am proud to be a part of this project, to share my story, and help make women’s experiences visible. It is only through being seen, heard and understood that we can prevent so many women from being without a home.”

 

If you, or anyone you know, needs support please contact the below services:

ENDS

Backgrounder

The Women’s Electoral Lobby has established a portal to facilitate tax-deductible donations for the UNSEEN Project and for the Women Ageing Well campaign. All donations can be made at www.wel.org.au/campaign_women_ageing_well

Official launch day is Monday, 8th March 2021 (International Women’s Day) in Circular Quay NSW, with exhibitions following the below focus. To find out more about UNSEEN, visit https://unseen.house/