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Woman Left Homeless But Her Cats Get Emergency Accommodation

A women's housing provider has slammed the "shitty" funding model that saw a domestic violence survivor's cats given secure safe accommodation while she was forced to sleep on the streets due to a lack of options.

Safe Haven Community, which helps provide temporary accommodation in private homes for survivors of domestic violence, last week assisted a woman from Brisbane who was left homeless as a result of a relationship breakdown.

Safe Haven director Denise Hunter said while the woman had been sleeping rough, as well as couch surfing and staying in an unsuitable caravan park, her three cats were able to be taken in to a shelter under a government funding arrangement.

While the cats were looked after, the woman could not secure an emergency accommodation option for herself, and was left to find her own housing solution.

"I was gobsmacked when they told me," Hunter told 10 daily.

"They spent a lot of money housing the cats. They do a fantastic job of what they do, but this is just the wrong way to do things."

She said that she was not criticising the organisation that provided care to the woman's animals, adding that one of the cats was sick and needed medication, which added to the cost -- but that she was speaking out against the situation due to what she claimed was a skewed system of funding.

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Hunter said a lot of money was being put into women's homelessness and responses to domestic violence, but that not enough was focused on providing crisis and long-term accommodation options.

The waiting list for a public housing property can stretch years, even decades, in some Australian states -- in NSW, the Department of Family and Community Services advises reports the wait time is "five to 10 years" for all properties.

In 2018, there were nearly 200,000 people on public housing waiting lists around the country. In NSW, there nearly 50,000 people on lists and more than 4500 on the priority list.

Housing could be found for the cats, but not their owner. Stock photo: Getty

"There's a lot out there to support these issues, but no infrastructure. A lot of it is just talking, pushing them around in circles," she claimed.

"People say they ring around and they're told there's nowhere to go, nothing for them. Even if there is public housing available, it can be a month to get the place cleaned up."

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Hunter said she was unable to provide further specific details of the woman's case for privacy reasons, but called the situation "pretty shitty". The woman was eventually helped out of insecure housing and into a safer long-term option, and has been reunited with her cats, but Hunter said the situation should never have occurred in the first place.

"This shouldn't be happening. There's a lot of funding but not a lot of housing," she said.

The woman was left to sleep rough. Stock photo: Getty

More attention has been paid to the wider effects of domestic and family violence in recent years, such as the effects on pets. Animal shelters are often given family pets which people fleeing domestic violence can no longer care for, while some charities and family service agencies have been working to care for animals in these situations or keep them living with their owners.

Other services provide free or heavily discounted vet services for people who are sleeping rough with pets.

Hunter said it was important that animals be cared for as well, but highlighted the case as an example of the lack of funding in vital areas of the family violence sector.

"Think how much money goes into this area, but there's still no homes for these people and a shortage of affordable rentals," she said.

"Most of these people are on Newstart, which doesn't get you even a granny flat. The only option is to find someone to share with, that can take up to a month or a few weeks... it is ridiculous."

"It shouldn't be happening."