Domestic Violence Service Providers: Key Partners in Preventing and Ending Homelessness

Throughout Domestic Violence Awareness Month and every day, we stand with the victims and survivors of domestic violence and recognize the tireless efforts of the advocates, service providers, and others across the country working to serve some of our most vulnerable individuals and families whose lives have been impacted by domestic violence. The Domestic Violence Counts 2015 census offers a stark reminder of the work we have ahead of us on our path to end homelessness.

On a single day in September of last year, approximately 40,300 victims of domestic violence found safety through domestic violence programs in emergency shelter or transitional housing, according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) 10th annual census. The survey, which provides a snapshot of the number of individuals who sought domestic violence services in a single 24-hour period, tracked data from more than 1,750 programs. However, on the same day, more than 12,000 requests for services went unmet due to lack of resources; 63% of those requests were for shelter.

Addressing these unmet needs and achieving the goals of Opening Doors is going to take a whole-community effort — from local leaders to federal partners. It will require resources to ensure our communities respond to the unique needs of all families and individuals, and that complex needs are never a barrier to safe, stable, permanent housing.

Safe housing and economic stability are two of the chief concerns facing men and women who are fleeing or have fled abusers; one study found that more than one-third of survivors of domestic violence reported experiencing homelessness immediately after separating from their partner. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Family Options Study, 80% of women and children experiencing homelessness have experienced domestic violence.

Connecting individuals and families fleeing domestic violence to the housing and services options they need to maintain safe, stable, permanent housing is a critical component of ending homelessness among those most vulnerable in our communities. People fleeing or who have survived domestic violence require trauma-informed approaches and services; these needs must not be barriers to accessing services and supports in our communities as we seek to end homelessness.

Ending homelessness requires communities to tailor services to meet the unique needs of all families and individuals. Many leaders are leveraging their coordinated entry processes to build partnerships with mainstream programs to increase service capacity in their communities. This is a critical opportunity to bring domestic violence service providers to the table. These partners bring a wealth of knowledge about an often unseen and under-served population, as well as vast experience in best practices in serving victims and survivors and their families — many of whom often seek assistance through the homelessness services system.

As communities build their understanding of the needs of victims in their community — using key local and national resources, such as NNEDV’s state-by-state reports as well as information from local providers and other community-based programs — domestic violence service providers can play a key role in building local capacity. We encourage communities to find ways to leverage that local expertise through cross-agency trainings, staff development opportunities, and by strengthening information-sharing between homelessness assistance systems and domestic violence service providers. These relationships could transform the way communities respond to and serve victims of domestic violence and their families.

At the federal level, the USICH Interagency Working Group on Ending Family Homelessness is leading efforts to increase awareness of domestic violence and its impact on family homelessness among national, state, and local stakeholders. Through the Domestic Violence Housing Technical Assistance Consortium, we are working to develop and provide best practices in service delivery for homelessness assistance programs and domestic violence service providers alike, as well as guidelines to developing and strengthening relationships across systems.

More on Domestic Violence Awareness Month

The Family Violence Prevention and Service Program launched its first Domestic Violence Awareness Month YouTube Competition this week, focusing on work with youth and children to create social change for the next generation. Learn more about this and other events during Domestic Violence Awareness Month on the HHS Administration for Children and Families’ calendar of educational and advocacy events.