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"It was just too violent ." At 24, Ashley was left homeless with an 8 week old baby.

This post deals with domestic violence and may be distressing for some readers. 

Every time Ashley* heard a noise in her room, her heart would "completely stop".

"Even just [the sound of] a door closing," she told Mamamia

At 24 years old, Ashley was a victim of family violence - perpetrated by her parents, a sibling, and her partner. 

"The violence seemed to come from all angles," she explained.

Violence was something Ashley had experienced growing up. But things had escalated after her son, Arlo*, was born.

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"Emergency services were regularly at our house," she shared, adding that her sibling would often get physical and damage property. 

When things became hostile, Ashley would escape with Arlo and spend a night at a friend’s house to get away. 

But when her son was eight weeks old, she realised she had no other option but to move out of her family's home in Victoria last year. 


"It was just too violent and I didn't feel safe for myself or my baby."

In need of a safe place to call home, Ashley was referred to Melbourne City Mission, a community support organisation, by her family’s case worker. 

"But even though I was engaged with the youth homelessness system, I wasn’t able to get a home for Arlo," she explained. 

Instead, the 24-year-old would go on to spend the next few months couch-surfing at different friends' houses. 

"Couch-surfing was hard. Living with people while experiencing being a new mum and the trauma my family was facing, it was so hard to put on a smile every-day in someone's home and pretend to be ok.

"[I] struggled to get out of bed some days."

During this time, she tried to find a place to rent. 

But as a young, single mother, with no rental history and low Centrelink income, she faced rejection after rejection. 

"I was subjected to continuous discrimination in the private rental market."

"The feedback I received from agents was that they didn’t think I could afford the property." 

The struggle to find a safe place to live, is a reality for many young Melbourne mums escaping family violence. 


According to Melbourne City Mission's Young Women’s Programs, the number of young women accessing the organisation’s homelessness services, including mothers aged 16 to 24 with babies and children, has risen by 145 per cent since 2020.

More broadly in Australia, we know that 167,388 women and girls came to homelessness services across the country between 2020-2021. 

38 per cent of those were fleeing domestic and family violence, according to Council to Homeless Persons.

"Young people aren’t being provided social housing because they’re seen as ‘riskier’ tenants with incomes too low to cover the cost of that housing," MCM CEO Vicki Sutton said in a statement.

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For Ashley, things took a turn for the worst when she found herself "literally pushed out" of a friend's home after experiencing bullying. 

"This led to one of the hardest days of my life."

Out on the street, she began driving around with her son looking for a place to sleep. 

"I had to choose between staying at a youth homelessness refuge with my four-month old or going back to a hostile and violent home... I felt very hopeless and lost.


"Both options had the potential for unsafety and violence."

Knowing she needed to make the right decision for her son's safety, she eventually decided to go back home, where she stayed for three weeks. 

But back at home, she was still on edge. 

"It wasn't a nice environment to be in.

"I had to keep a bag packed in the car at all times and did have to flee a couple of times and stay with friends for one to two nights. I would always need to text [a family member] before arriving home to ensure it was safe."

Thankfully, she was finally able to leave when she was accepted for a rental property after 20 rejected applications. 

Now with a permanent roof over her head, Ashley has been able to work through her experience of trauma and work part-time, while studying to become a teacher. 

"I've got a healthy social life and a caring and current partner who treats Arlo as his own. My connection with my mum and sister is also stronger than ever now." 

Looking back, she credits her caseworker for her constant support, and her son for being her "saving grace".

"Arlo gave me a reason to get up each day, fight and get through. I fought so hard for the safe home and happy mum he deserves. He got me through every single hard day."


But with young mothers with babies fleeing family violence one of the fastest-growing groups of young people experiencing homelessness, Ashley wants to see urgent changes. 

"I'd like to see houses built for young people who find themselves in these circumstances with appropriate rent for the income that they receive on Centrelink. It would also be great to see some sort of incentive for landlords who give vulnerable people a chance." 

MCM CEO Vicki Sutton is also calling for "a youth housing pipeline of at least 5,000 social housing places with support to address the urgent need". 

When it comes to advice for other young mothers escaping violence, Ashley says it's important to remember, "you're not alone". 

"I felt like I was the only one in the world going through this. But obviously, that's not the case, there's of a lot of people going through this."

"Don't give up hope... You don't need to stay in an unsafe environment, there are alternatives and there is a better life for you."

*Names have been changed for privacy reasons.

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. 

Feature Image: Getty.