Change Makers - Vanessa Hulands

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Launch Housing’s Commitment to Women in Crisis

06 June 2024

This month, we spoke to Vanessa Hulands, Coordinator of Case Management for Women's Services at Launch Housing, a charity passionately committed to ending homelessness in Melbourne. Through innovative programs, partnerships, crisis and long-term housing solutions, Launch Housing provides immediate and practical solutions for those experiencing or at risk of homelessness, offering life-changing and life-saving support to women and children facing housing insecurity and family violence. 

Can you describe the evolution of Women's Services at Launch Housing over the years you’ve worked there? 

Launch Housing was formed in 2015 when Hanover Welfare Services (which was founded in the 1960s) merged with HomeGround Services. I started in 2012, three years before the merger, working in our South Melbourne Crisis Accommodation as a Pregnancy Outreach Worker. I now coordinate multiple programs as women's services, Case Management Coordinator based at our East St Kilda crisis accommodation site.    

Back when I started, women's services consisted of a 15-bed crisis accommodation and a women's only rooming house for 15 women. Fast forward to 2024 and along with a range of partners and the Victorian government, Launch Housing now operates six different residential buildings providing crisis support or long-term housing for women and children, collectively housing roughly more than 200 women and children per night. Launch Housing's services and supports for women are wide-ranging and innovative. We operate Australia's first apartment building for families escaping family violence, our women's services function oversees a pregnancy outreach program that supports pregnant women who are experiencing homelessness, and one of Melbourne's only female crisis accommodation sites. We also have a partnership with the Royal Women's Hospital and Housing First that delivers support to mothers and babies through the Cornelia Program.   

Launch Housing's women's services are focused on supporting women through a trauma-informed feminist lens. We empower women with information so they can access housing and support that is best for their current situation. It has been refreshing to spend the last 12 years working for a progressive service that is so committed to adapting to the community's needs.  

What are the most significant challenges that women facing homelessness encounter today, and how does Launch Housing address these issues? 

There are many factors that lead people to Launch Housing, some of these include living below the poverty line, family violence, cost of living, and tight rental markets. These examples are constant pressures that push many women into the impossible position of raising a family without a stable home.    

Each day we see the intersection of physical and mental health and homelessness. It's rare for us to see a referral for accommodation and support where the woman has not experienced family or domestic violence. It is one of the main drivers of homelessness for women and children, where women escaping family violence are often faced with the impossible choice between staying in an abusive home or leaving that situation and presenting as homeless at one of our entry points, when there is a shortage of appropriate, safe, and long-term housing.  Last year, Launch Housing supported over 2,400 families and 1 in 5 of these families reported an experience of family violence.  

Our partnerships are key to addressing the complex, and overlapping, supports required by women who are experiencing (or at risk of experiencing) homelessness. For example, our partnership with First Step and the Road Home Program enables a multidisciplinary team including a mental health worker, nurse practitioner, and a lawyer to visit our East St. Kilda crisis site on a weekly basis. This program has been life-changing for women as it means that they can focus on a range of compounding factors impacting their lives whilst addressing their housing needs. Funding for programs within the women's only crisis accommodation site is an ongoing challenge and we're currently looking for ways to keep this vital program operating when its funding runs out at the end of 2024. 

Can you please expand on Launch Housing's mission of making a home for all a reality across Melbourne? 

We are passionately committed to ending homelessness by providing immediate and practical solutions for those who are experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, homelessness. We believe that having a home is a basic human right. Ending homelessness starts with creating more homes, but to permanently end homelessness, we need housing combined with healthcare and support.   

What are some misconceptions people might have about women experiencing homelessness? 

There's so much stigma and so many misconceptions about people who are experiencing homelessness.   

One of the main misconceptions is that homelessness is always visible: people sleeping rough on the streets. The reality is that homelessness can be hidden in plain sight, with most people experiencing homelessness couch surfing, sleeping in cars, residing in unstable and temporary accommodation, staying in motels or with friends. Women experiencing homelessness might be retirees who are forced to sleep in hotels or mothers and their children sharing a room in an unsafe share house because they have no other option.   

I think it is important to note that while it's true that family violence stands out as a primary driver of homelessness for women and children, there are additional factors to consider, like mental illness and the pressures of rising cost of living. While it's closing, there is still a gender pay gap which has an impact on women's financial vulnerability, with some women balancing the demands of family and supporting others leading to less savings, part-time or casual work, and less superannuation. 

Looking forward, what new initiatives or programs are being planned at Launch Housing to further support women in need? 

We are actively working on projects to increase the supported long-term housing options across Melbourne for women who have experienced family violence, including those who are pregnant – which we know is often one of the highest risk periods for women.   

How do events such as the Marshall White Foundation Ball impact Launch Housing's efforts to provide life-changing support for disadvantaged Melburnians facing homelessness? 

The Marshall White Foundation Ball raises funds for a crucial program called The Parachute Fund, which is a pool of immediate funds for people facing homelessness. The Parachute Fund provides women who have been supported by Launch Housing (either at our entry points or in crisis accommodation) with immediate support to pay utility bills, rent, the costs of removalists, or essentials for setting up a new home, which is very important for women escaping family or domestic violence.  

Clients often arrive at our crisis accommodation sites with only one or two bags. We recently had a client who was lucky to secure a community housing property. The fund allowed her to buy furniture and helped cover the first week's rent to ensure she could accept the offer and be excited about her upcoming move.  

We are so grateful for the support of partners like the Marshall White Foundation for events like the ball, which not only raise vital funds for Launch Housing but also promote empathy and awareness about the experience of homelessness. We need a community of supporters to drive change, and we can't do it without our partners.   

Beyond events, how can individuals make a difference through Launch Housing?     

Consider donating or becoming a volunteer.    

To find out more about making a one-off or regular donation, visit 

Volunteers can have a profound impact on the lives of women and children in our long-term and temporary accommodation sites. For example, at our East St. Kilda women's crisis accommodation, we have a volunteer nutritionist who runs cooking classes, and women who help with front desk duty and collecting food bank donations. In the past, we have had volunteers run art therapy sessions and provide massages. Please get in touch if you'd like to join our volunteer program.   

There's also the opportunity for businesses and organizations to partner with Launch Housing. Every partnership is unique, but if you are passionate about working with us to end homelessness and would like to create a partnership that inspires employees, supports your social impact goals, and changes lives, then please reach out.