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Domestic Violence and Homelessness: Helping Children, Youth, and Families Stay Housed. Eric S. Tars Director of Human Rights & C hildren’s Rights Programs. Overview. Domestic Violence & Homelessness Background The Violence Against Women Act

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domestic violence and homelessness helping children youth and families stay housed

Domestic Violence and Homelessness: Helping Children, Youth, and Families Stay Housed

Eric S. Tars

Director of Human Rights &

Children’s Rights Programs

overview
Overview
  • Domestic Violence & Homelessness
    • Background
    • The Violence Against Women Act
    • Housing Protections for Survivors and their Children
  • Education & Homelessness
    • Education Protections for Homeless Children Fleeing Domestic Violence
  • Putting it Together
  • Q&A
domestic violence homelessness1
Domestic Violence & Homelessness
  • 80% of families in homelessness are female-headed
    • 50%+ of homeless mothers do not have a high school diploma
    • 29% of adults in homeless families work
  • 92% of homeless mothers have experienced severe physical and/or sexual abuse
    • 63% was perpetrated by intimate male partner
  • 94% of homeless children are in homeless families
  • Domestic violence a “primary cause of homelessness” in 16 cities
causes of family homelessness
Causes of Family Homelessness
  • Extreme poverty
    • Insufficient minimum wage earnings
    • Families need twice the Federal Poverty Level income to meet their basic needs
  • Lack of affordable, safe housing
    • 5.8 million units needed to fill gap
    • Wait for public housing or assistance 1.5 – 3 years on average
  • Domestic violence
    • Difficulty in finding housing due to economic experience of violence
dv can jeopardize housing
DV Can Jeopardize Housing
  • Eviction threat
    • because of criminal activity
    • because called police too often
    • because of noise of violence
    • because of property damage
    • because of unauthorized resident
    • simply because person is a victim
dv c reates b arriers to stable housing
DV Creates Barriers to Stable Housing
  • Need to break lease
  • Need to transfer housing subsidies
  • Need to change locks
  • Lack of steady income
  • Negative credit history
  • Prior evictions
  • Control of lease by abuser
  • Lack of knowledge of housing protections
vawa 2005
VAWA 2005
  • Protects the housing rights of applicants and tenants who are survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking in Public Housing and Section 8 units
  • Prohibits survivors from being evicted or denied housing assistance because of acts of violence committed against them
vawa 2013
VAWA 2013
  • Explicitly cover survivors of sexual assault
  • Expands covered federally assisted housing to cover ALL federal housing programs
  • Mandates that housing authorities create and implement an emergency transfer policy
  • Requires housing authorities to provide notice to tenants on VAWA rights
who is covered
Who is covered?
  • Any person who is or has been a victim of actual or threatened domestic violence, dating violence, stalking or sexual assault as defined by VAWA
  • Any person who is protected by state family violence laws
  • Immediate family members of the survivor
what rights are afforded
What rights are afforded?
  • Rights to confidentiality
  • Protections in applying for housing
  • Rights to move or transfer
  • Protections against evictions and subsidy terminations
  • Lease/Subsidy bifurcation
  • Notice
confidentiality
Confidentiality
  • Housing providers must keep info survivor provides for certification confidential
  • Housing providers may not enter info into a shared database or provide to another entity
protection in applying for housing
Protection in Applying for Housing
  • Housing providers may not deny an applicant admission to housing or rental assistance “on the basis that the applicant is or has been a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking.”
  • In practice denial is not typically explicit
  • VAWA does not explicitly address denials in housing based on negative tenancy or credit history
rights to move or transfer
Rights to Move or Transfer
  • Tenant may continue to receive voucher assistance if a survivor of violence moved to protect health or safety, and reasonably believed she was threatened with imminent harm
  • VAWA mandates that PHA’s create and implement an emergency transfer policy
protections against evictions subsidy terminations
Protections Against Evictions & Subsidy Terminations
  • VAWA provides that criminal activity directly relating to DV must not be considered cause for eviction or subsidy termination for the survivor
  • Establishes an exception to the federal “one-strike” criminal activity eviction rule for tenants who are victims.
  • 1 act triggers VAWA protections
  • Physical act of threat of physical act triggers VAWA protections
removing abuser from household
Removing Abuser from Household
  • Housing provider can “bifurcate” a lease
    • Split the lease in order to evict the perpetrator
  • PHA may also terminate section 8 assistance to the perpetrator while preserving assistance to the survivor
pha obligations
PHA Obligations
  • Provide notice of VAWA rights to tenants
  • Include VAWA housing protections in the leases, lease addendums, and housing assistance contracts
  • Discuss domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault in 5-year and annual plans
  • Create and implement an emergency transfer policy for survivors
state laws
State laws

Where state or federal law is more favorable to victim than VAWA, more favorable law governs

state laws1
State laws
  • 80% allow courts to exclude perpetrator from lease
      • California
      • Indiana
      • Wisconsin
  • 76% protect confidentiality of housing records
      • Colorado
      • Florida
  • 44% provide rights to emergency shelter
      • Florida
      • New Hampshire
  • 42% permit early lease termination
      • Illinois
state laws2
State laws
  • 26 % of states have enacted housing anti-discrimination statutes
      • Rhode Island
      • District of Columbia
  • 18% of states have enacted statutes that provide survivors with a defense against eviction
      • District of Columbia
      • Washington
state laws key recommendations
State laws – key recommendations
  • Specify activities that constitute discrimination
  • Require landlords to bifurcate lease at survivor’s request
  • Create a private right of action based on state law for violations of housing protections
  • Mandate PHA’s report on terminations of survivors
  • Create address confidentiality program and exemptions from public records requirements
  • Require employers to provide leave from work to relocate or improve safety
state laws3
State laws
  • 26 % of states have enacted housing anti-discrimination statutes
      • Rhode Island
      • District of Columbia
  • 18% of states have enacted statutes that provide survivors with a defense against eviction
      • District of Columbia
      • Washington
who is covered1
Who is covered?
  • Children who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence
    • Doubled-up, couch surfing
    • Motels, hotels, camp grounds
    • Shelters
    • Abandoned buildings, cars
    • Awaiting foster care placements
  • Families and unaccompanied youth fleeing DV may hide their status as DV victims – it’s not up to the school to judge
important considerations
Important Considerations
  • Preschool
    • Homeless preschoolers are eligible for McKinney-Vento protections and must be prioritized for Head Start
  • Dispute resolution process
    • Parent, guardian or youth must be provided notice of determination and the right of appeal
    • Student must be allowed to attend school during the appeal
    • Liaison must make sure the process is expeditious
  • School records and protecting families
    • Encourage schools to protect student privacy (particularly in DV)
putting it together1
Putting It Together
  • Protecting the housing rights of survivors of domestic violence not only helps to prevent housing instability for the individual and their families, but promotes the holistic stability and improved life outcomes for their children.
  • Protecting the education rights of homeless children (often the witnesses or survivor of domestic violence) is a key component in ensuring that these children have the skills to move themselves out of poverty.
  • Be aware of opportunities to address
breaking the cycle
Breaking the Cycle
  • Preventing low-income women from becoming homeless
    • Domestic violence
    • Affordable housing
    • Advocacy & legal supports
  • Ensuring the right of homeless children to attend school
    • Educational stability
    • Transportation
    • Privacy
    • Other supports
discussion questions

Discussion & Questions

Eric S. Tars, Director of Human Rights & Children’s Rights Programs

(202) 638-2535 x. 120

etars@nlchp.org

nlchp.org

www.facebook.com/homelessnesslaw  

www.twitter.com/nlchphomeless