Building Momentum for Safe and Accessible Housing for All Survivors of Domestic and Sexual Violence
Survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault often need more than shelter to find safety from violence and abuse and to achieve housing stability. We have been inspired by the innovative practices that communities have developed and incorporated to broaden the array of housing options, including flexible funding and Domestic Violence Housing First approaches. At the same time, more communities recognize that providing safe housing also requires addressing whether and how those options are made available to everyone who needs them and a commitment to identify and remove existing barriers.
To mark the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we wanted to share the work we have underway to advance collaboration across federal, national, state, and local partners to ensure that survivors are able to access the housing and supportive services they need to thrive.
Who We Are
The Domestic Violence and Housing Technical Assistance Consortium supports and highlights innovative safe housing approaches through training, technical assistance, and resource development at the critical intersection of domestic violence, sexual assault, homelessness, and housing. Funded by an unprecedented partnership between the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Justice, and Housing and Urban Development, and with support from USICH, this multi-year Consortium brings together national, state, and local organizations with deep expertise on housing and domestic and sexual violence to build the capacity of housing, homelessness, and victim service providers to increase safe housing options for survivors. The Consortium improves policies, identifies promising practices, and strengthens collaborations to enhance the safety, stability, and well-being of survivors and their families.
A More Tailored Approach
In working with community-based providers as well as national researchers and advocates, the Consortium has learned about the many varied needs for safe housing across diverse communities. For example, in 2016, the Center for Social Innovation’s Supporting Partnerships for Anti-Racist Communities (SPARC) project studied eight communities across the U.S. to understand racial inequities in homelessness and found that, in total, over 78% of people experiencing homelessness were people of color, far higher than their representation in the general population. Through focus groups and oral histories with people of color experiencing homelessness, SPARC also learned that domestic and sexual violence was a common thread in the lives of many respondents across gender and age ranges. These critical findings help underscore the need to center racial equity as we work to enhance survivors’ access to safe housing options and supports.
Where Sexual Violence and Homelessness Intersect
In partnership with sexual assault advocates, we also learned more about the intersection of sexual assault and housing instability, even when an attack does not occur within the survivor’s home. The impact of trauma on survivors leads many to feel unsafe and uncomfortable at home. We also know that women experiencing homelessness experience higher rates of violent victimization than women who have access to housing. Sexual assault-related housing risks and barriers are heightened for women, people of color, those who identify as LGBTQIA+, runaway youth, people with disabilities, immigrants, and residents in rural areas. The Consortium will continue to strengthen these critical partnerships to help address the needs of sexual assault survivors in safe housing.
Ground-level Technical Assistance
Through community-based technical assistance, the Consortium is collaboratively working to build capacity and develop strategies for ensuring that safe housing is available and accessible to all survivors. Similarly, many state domestic violence coalitions are recruiting housing coordinators to support their member programs to work with Continuums of Care and local planners to build out their array of housing options and remove barriers to entry to survivors and their families. Their efforts are yielding great results in coordinating systems, improving safety, and increasing resources for safe housing.
Centering survivors’ experiences and identified needs in fashioning safe housing may look different across communities and will continue to evolve with the addition of new resources, innovations, and understanding. The Consortium will continue to work with partners focused on racial and economic equity, and others, to help local and state providers ensure safe housing is just that – safe and housing – for everyone who needs it.
For more information about the DVHTAC and the intersection of domestic/sexual violence, homelessness, and housing, go to www.SafeHousingPartnerships.org.