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Violence against women who experience homelessness

Content warning: Death, violence against women

Courtney Herron's Vigil, Image curtesy of Jason Edwards and the Herald Sun

In late May, Melbourne woke up to the news that another woman lost her life at the hands of a man. She was found just 2km away from the place where another woman was murdered almost 12 months ago. Courtney Herron's death comes just over one month after Natalina Angok's body was found in Chinatown. As we welcomed in the new year, another family was mourning the loss of a loved one, when exchange student Aiia Maaarwe was killed on her way home. Women are still vulnerable when they are alone, especially when the sun goes down. But, as soon as it was revealed Courtney was experiencing mental health issues, drug problems and was experiencing homelessness, the public started to shift the blame. Earlier this year, Blessing Bags released an article about the dangers of criminalising people who experience homelessness. The representation of people who experience homelessness in the media are portrayed as vulnerable, but somewhat responsible for their actions. We know this is simply not true. Miss Heron, like so many others who are without stable and secure housing are victims of poorly designed and neglected housing system, that does not support our most vulnerable community members. People like Courtney are not on the street because they're too lazy to get a job. In fact, Courtney was doing all she could:

“She couldn’t even get public housing … Women are more vulnerable than men being homeless. Men can attack them, can take advantage of them, especially when it concerns mental illness and drugs."

While Melbourne mourns Courtney and the 21 other women who are no longer with us due to violence against women, we need to continue to fight for the rights of our most vulnerable community members. While the state government is trying to deal with this crisis, it is not enough. Blowing $2 billion on a new prison can lead to further criminalising our vulnerable community members. If Victoria is serious about being the most progressive state, we must invest in more public housing units.

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