DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND HOMELESSNESS Linda Olsen, MA, MSW Presented at the National Conference to End Family Homelessness February 8, 2008
DV and Homelessness: The Connection • Domestic violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness for women and children • 92% of homeless women have experienced severe physical or sexual abuse at some point in their lives; 63% have been victims of domestic violence as adults. (Browne and Bassuk, 1997) • From a sample of women who had experienced domestic violence, 38% became homeless after they separated from their abusive partner. An additional 25% indicated that they had to leave their homes during the year following the separation for both safety and financial reasons (Baker, Cook, and Norris, 2003)
Two Separate Systems • While homelessness is often a direct result of domestic violence, the resources available may be aligned to address only one of the issues presented. • DV shelters are focused on safety planning and a wide array of advocacy issues and services, including housing, that victims need and want. • Homeless service providers are focused on a move to stable housing and improved financial stability.
DV and Chronic Homelessness • Combination of a lifelong history of physical trauma, mental illness, chemical dependency, and poverty may result in chronic homelessness. • A life on the streets and in shelters may increase a battered woman’s vulnerability to new, abusive relationships. • For DV shelters, the presence of a history of homelessness combined with mental illness and chemical dependency may eliminate women in current abusive relationships from services. • The presence of current physical danger may eliminate women from homeless emergency shelters.
Coordinated Efforts • Domestic violence service providers need to address the range of risks that women face throughout their life, including homelessness and the need for long term, safe housing options. • Homeless service providers need to remember the presence of domestic violence survivors in their shelters and be aware of the legal issues, safety concerns, and lingering trauma that survivors experience. (Include domestic violence in Consolidated Plans!) • DV emergency shelter programs and homeless emergency shelter programs need to coordinate supportive services for women plagued by abuse, poverty, homelessness, chemical dependency, and mental health issues.
For Homeless Service Providers:What are the dynamics that make DV survivors different? • Safety. The threat of physical harm greatly increases when a battered woman decides to end the relationship. The threat & accompanying fear may follow a survivor for years after the relationship has ended. • “The existence of a batterer who is sabotaging a victim’s life goals.” (Anne Menard) The abusive partner often actively works against any step toward independence the survivor may try to take. Impacts of abuse (chemical dependency; symptoms of PTSD) may be used as part of the sabotage.
Where does domestic violence fit in a Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness? • City of Seattle staff coordinated efforts among community stakeholders throughout King County to develop a specific DV and Homelessness Strategic Plan. Stakeholders included housing and homeless providers. • Monthly meetings were held through 2006, with final plan completed and approved in April 2007 • DV service provider on CEH • DV service providers attend CEH committee meetings
Plan Components • Prevention of Homelessness • Interim Housing (Safe Temporary Housing) • Permanent Housing
Prevention of Homelessness • Coordinate with efforts to create funding pool for temporary financial assistance so women may maintain their homes (rental assistance, utility assistance, mortgage support, critical repairs, home maintenance costs) • Increase funding for civil legal assistance, legal advocacy and community advocacy • Develop and improve strategies, both through policy changes and through funding, to ensure the safety of victims/survivors and their children in their home
Prevention of Homelessness (cont.) • Educate domestic violence survivors who live in subsidized housing about their rights under federal law to remain in their housing unit or be moved to a safer unit. • Work with domestic violence culturally specific providers to develop community engagement programs so women and children may be safe in their own homes and so abusive partners understand domestic violence laws.
Interim Housing (Safe Temporary Housing) • Preserve existing pool of emergency shelter/transitional housing units designated for DV victims as “interim housing.” Ensure geographic distribution as well as accessibility for victims/survivors with disabilities • Ensure that immigrants, refugees, and those with limited English speaking abilities have access to interim housing that can meet their cultural needs.
Interim Housing (Safe Temporary Housing) cont. • Ensure that LGBT DV victim/survivors have access to safe interim housing. • Establish one access point, with interpretative services, for resource information and access to interim housing • Develop a recommended model for hotel/motel voucher programs.
Permanent Housing • Develop guidelines for supportive services to survivors of DV who are tenants in permanent, supportive housing operated by mainstream homeless/housing providers • Ensure that DV expertise is available throughout the homeless/housing system • Work with CEH on development of a coordinated entry system into permanent housing which can work for DV survivors
Permanent Housing (cont.) • Participate in Landlord/Service Provider Partnerships to foster relationships between DV service providers and apartment owners and management organizations. • In conjunction with the Ten Year Plan, work to address the racism and discrimination that prevent people of color from gaining access to and achieving stability in permanent housing.
Note on HMIS • VAWA and McKinney-Vento: Programs whose primary mission is to serve DV victims may not submit personally identifying information about clients to an HMIS • Aggregate data regarding services to clients and nonpersonally identifying demographic information may be provided • Does not supersede any provision of State or Local law that provides greater protection
HMIS note (cont) • Washington State HB 2163 (2006) says that government shall not ask any homeless housing provider to disclose personally identifying information about any homeless individuals if there is reason to believe or evidence that the clients are victims of DV.
LindaOlsen Senior Planning and Development Specialist Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention Division Seattle Human Services Department 206-386-1036 firstname.lastname@example.org