Domestic Violence and Homelessness
Domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness for women and children in the United States and a lack of affordable housing options is regularly reported by survivors as a primary barrier to escaping abuse. Housing programs provide critical services for survivors of domestic violence and are often a key component that allows survivors to flee the violence perpetrated against them.
Often, leaving an abusive relationship means leaving a place of residence. Taking this into consideration, it is not surprising that a major barrier to leaving an abusive relationship is housing. A domestic violence survivor may face many challenges in the area of housing. They may not be able to afford to live on their own; they may have bad credit or may be denied housing due to a history of domestic violence. The reality for many domestic violence survivors is that having consistent and stable housing means staying in an abusive relationship.
Shelters are a form of emergency housing and often have case management services to help a survivor create a plan to get back on their feet. Transitional housing programs offer a longer stay than shelters and usually are subsidized. Sometimes priority is given to domestic violence survivors in public housing.
Some financial assistance is available to domestic violence survivors through the Victims of Crime Program. If survivors have had police involvement in their domestic violence situation, they may qualify for relocation expenses or other expenses related to keeping them safe in their current home. For example, they may get help with changing the locks on doors.
Because of past discrimination experienced by domestic violence survivors, certain laws were created to protect the rights of domestic violence survivors. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 2005 states that a person cannot be denied public housing because they are a victim of domestic violence .The Federal Fair Housing Act bans landlords and housing providers from discriminating against domestic violence survivors either by denying an application from a domestic violence survivor or evicting a survivor (ACLU, Women’s Rights Project).