A safe home for all DV survivors

We bring you this post by Kendra Gritsch, our Domestic Violence Housing First program specialist, and Marie Sauter, Advisor to the Director, Pacific Northwest Initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, from their blog, Impatient Optimists.

Imagine you live in a home where you don’t feel safe. An abusive partner threatens you and your children – but leaving home means uprooting your child, possibly losing your job, and leaving everything behind. You are stuck: do you choose an unsafe home or no home at all?

Domestic violence has long been a leading cause of homelessness for women and children. Service providers in the domestic violence field are beginning to identify more effective ways to work with survivors of domestic violence who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless – by providing supports specifically tailored to help survivors become safer and more stably housed.

In 2009, the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV) teamed up with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and many other partners to launch a five-year pilot project testing the Domestic Violence Housing First (DVHF) approach to promoting survivor safety and stability. This marked a major change in the way service providers work with domestic violence survivors. Instead of imposing a pre-determined set of services that each person may or may not need, along with a set of conditions that must be met before housing is available, DVHF is a survivor-driven approach that asks the individual what they need right now. Survivors get to decide which services and supports they receive, and choose where they become stably housed.

DVHF includes mobile advocates bringing one-on-one services to locations that are convenient for each survivor, flexible financial assistance, connections to other community services, and landlord engagement to remove barriers to housing. This coordinated approach gets survivors into stable housing as quickly as possible – often bypassing the shelter system – and then provides ongoing support as they rebuild their lives.

Thirteen domestic violence programs across Washington State – urban, rural, and tribal – piloted the DVHF approach, and found that a significant majority of survivors either safely retained current permanent housing or quickly accessed new housing. The housing and support from advocates meant that survivors could get a job, enroll in school, and heal from the violence they had experienced. Safe and stable housing let children be children again, so they could stay in one school, have their own space to do homework, and invite their friends over without fear. With a place to call home, survivors and their children went from surviving to thriving.

We applaud these thirteen pioneering agencies and the many others who have followed their lead in Washington State and beyond. A recent investment of $2 million dollars from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and the U.S. Department of Justice further validates the work of these pioneers by supporting WSCADV in collaborating with Dr. Cris Sullivan to conduct research that seeks to demonstrate what we’ve learned: DVHF prevents homelessness and increases safety and stability for parents and children who are domestic violence survivors.

Survivors seeking services from four agencies in King County and Yakima County (LifeWire, New Beginnings, YWCA of Yakima and Lower Valley Crisis and Support Services) will be invited to participate in a longitudinal study to better understand how DVHF services can optimize housing stability for survivors and their children. Armed with this research, the domestic violence field will be better positioned to forge new alliances with housing/homeless service providers and attract new resources to support their evidence-based DVHF services.

Every person deserves a safe place to call home. This research will advance our knowledge of what it takes to get us there.

News you can relate to

Some stories that caught our eye this week:

Antoine Elvin Sullivan shot and killed his wife and then himself. His grieving mother decided to have a domestic violence expert speak at her son’s funeral. “I told her we needed to let people know the abusers are your father, are your sons, are everyday people who hold good jobs.”

Given how rarely police are held accountable for crimes they commit, it was a surprise when Daniel Holtzclaw was convicted of sexually assaulting multiple black women in Oklahoma City. Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw discusses the case.

If domestic-violence victims can’t secure safe housing after separating from their abusive partners, 60 percent will return to their abuser and 38 percent will become homeless. Lifewire and the King County Housing Authority are working together to help survivors to a different outcome.

 

News you can relate to

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

In the face of the shameful refusal of local and federal government to care about untested rape kits, these Detroit businesswomen took action.

Listen to amazing survivor and homelessness advocate Jessie Garcia tell Humans of New York her story.

When rents shoot up, domestic violence survivors face a tough choice: stay or be homeless.

Who’s the expert on your life?

On March 22nd my home flooded. Suddenly I lost my safe haven and my life became a ball of chaos and stress.

It was hard for me to focus at work, I was constantly on the phone with the insurance company, I forgot to pay my credit card bill twice, and I broke down crying about a dozen times. This was my experience despite having a loving partner by my side, a flexible job, and friends and family to offer their support. Which made me think about how much harder it is for those who don’t have support or resources.

Photo by Jett Loe
Photo by Jett Loe

Like this story of a survivor who was forced to choose between her housing and violence. Her abuser isolated her from friends, family, and social networks. She left with literally $4 in her pocket. She had nowhere to turn and wound up in shelter. She’s not the only one; domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness for women and children.

The survivors I’ve worked with tell me that folks tend to jump to problem-solving without taking the time to acknowledge how stress and trauma is impacting their lives. It is often the case that survivors are given lists of places to go and people to call, asked to identify goals, and then to “follow through” on them. I don’t know about you, but I would’ve been annoyed if someone told me to go to a support group to deal with my house flooding when I didn’t know where I was going to be sleeping that night. When we take more time to sit and listen we discover that survivors have the best solutions for their problems and that they are experts in their own lives, just like you are an expert in your life and I’m an expert in mine.

News you can relate to

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

I always love buying Real Change, but I’m even more excited than usual about the newest issue, which features  a story about our project that helps domestic violence survivors avoid homelessness.

Fear of death or injury can keep many women in abusive relationships, but for Latina women in particular there is an added fear: deportation.

Most media coverage leads you to believe that abortion evenly splits the nation. But it turns out that pollsters just aren’t asking the right questions.

News you can relate to

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

We were touched this week by Kristin Leong’s riveting story of teaching her young students to ‘practice being brave’.

Bitch Magazine interviews Emily Lindin, who started the UnSlut Project by posting her middle school diary entries detailing the slut-shaming she endured as an 11-year-old girl.

Our own Grace Huang talked to KUOW this week about the pressure social service agencies face to collect and pass on their clients’ personal info in order to receive funding.

Preventing homelessness

We bring you this post from Kendra Gritsch, our Domestic Violence Housing First program specialist.

Did you know that domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women and children? Women often face isolation, discrimination, and limited resources when leaving an abusive home. Because of this, many survivors are forced to choose between stable housing and safety.

To eliminate housing as a reason to stay in an abusive relationship, WSCADV and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation partnered to pilot Domestic Violence Housing First (DVHF). Our partner programs across Washington State are helping survivors get and stay in safe, permanent housing by providing things like flexible financial assistance. Then, advocates have the flexibility to provide whatever kind of support the person needs to be self-sufficient.

After three years of doing and learning, we are beginning to capture the impact of this approach. The YWCA of Kitsap County found: “we had to learn how to listen … and how to celebrate who they (survivors) were and maybe back up a little about what the YWCA is.”