Shelter for Domestic Violence Victims Alone is Not Enough – Housing is Critical
As Domestic Violence Awareness moth comes to a close at the end of October, it is not too late to reflect on the connections between domestic violence, homelessness, and the affordable housing crisis. The National Alliance to End the Homelessness (the Alliance) highlighted these connected issues in two recent blog posts.
Genese Jones-Torrence, Vice President of Crisis Services at SafeNest, explains in “Housing is Safety” that finding safety may be the immediate need for her clients, but finding independent housing is almost always the next critical goal.
Jones-Torrence tells us that “Unfortunately for victims of domestic violence, home can become a place of isolation and escalating abuse. Many victims, mainly women and children, are displaced every year because they are in immediate danger.”
Jones-Torrence shares that through her experience, “What I have found is that after victims have attained safety and had a period of respite, the next step is goal-setting for a promising future. Almost every person we serve shares one critical goal: to have a place of their own. A place where they, and in some instances, children, can live positive, independent lives without the threat of violence.”
NJCounts 2018, the statewide point in time count found that 350 households (5%) in New Jersey experiencing homelessness reported that domestic violence was the primary factor contributing to their experience of homelessness. This number does include households who experienced domestic violence but did not report it as the primary reason they were experiencing homelessness.
Recommendations for how all those working in the intersecting fields of domestic violence, homelessness and the affordable housing crisis can better support individuals and families impacted by domestic violence,
- On an individual level, agencies should consider adopting a domestic violence Housing First model to support survivors in identifying affordable housing options.
- On a community level, the onus is on all stakeholders and advocates to demand affordable housing in our communities. More and more families are being priced out of the rental market, and that further increases their vulnerability.
Alliance Expert Sharon McDonald explains how the affordable housing crisis can make this goal hard to achieve in “Using Flexible Financial Assistance to Serve Domestic Violence Survivors.”
Writes McDonald, “During Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it’s important to reflect on how housing and shelter service providers can best promote safety for their clients. It’s clear that shelter ALONE is not enough: housing is critical.”
- Many households who have experienced homelessness do not need the safety and support of domestic violence shelters or only need that safety and support for a limited period of time.
- But often time these households have very few resources, often related to the loss of their abusive partner’s income and cannot afford their own housing so get stuck in the shelter system.
- But the Domestic Violence Housing First model can solve this problem by allowing survivors to either stay in their own housing or move right away into their own new housing instead of into a shelter.
- The key to this housing first model is flexible financial assistance. Rapid re-housing is also a model that works well with housing households experiencing domestic violence.