The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness should set a goal to prevent and end homelessness for individuals and families experiencing domestic violence and Congress should provide the resources to ensure that every adult or child who is escaping domestic violence has access to shelter.
On a given night, 57,863 homeless adults and children were escaping domestic violence in 2014. Forty-one thousand were in emergency shelters, transitional housing, or safe havens and 16,500 were without shelter. Unfortunately, on a single night, there were not enough shelter beds or rapid rehousing beds for at least 9,202 to 11,626 of the 16,500 domestic violence survivors who were without shelter.
Although the federal plan to prevent and end homelessness has specified the goal to prevent and end homelessness for families, youth, and children in 2020, it does not articulate a specific goal to assist individuals and families escaping domestic violence. USICH explains in its plan that domestic violence often includes forms that can leave both individuals and persons in families without support and limited or no resources. USICH’s plan states that domestic violence often includes exertion of financial and psychological control, leaving survivors with poor credit, few resources, and limited networks of support and many survivors must leave their homes to escape violence but may not have access to safe housing and needed services.
Domestic violence shelter providers report that both individuals and persons in families seek shelter on a given day. The National Network to End Domestic Violence’s Domestic Violence Counts 2014 report disclosed that on one day 16,900 adults and 18,854 children were served in emergency shelters or transitional housing and 6,126 requests for shelter were unmet. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services emphasized that
annually there are an average 174,450 unmet requests for shelter due to programs being at capacity.
Articulation of a specific goal to prevent and end homelessness for individuals and families escaping domestic violence will lead to planning for the shelter resources and other services needed to assist them and will ensure that individuals and families do not have to choose between sleeping on the streets or returning to an abuser.
Providing emergency shelter and transitional housing to individuals and families escaping domestic violence is a vital means of assistance and rapid rehousing vouchers can free up these shelter resources for adults and children initially fleeing abuse. Emergency shelters provide a lifesaving, safe and secure, immediate place to stay for individuals and families fleeing domestic violence. Transitional housing provides a stepping stone between crisis and long-term safety with supportive services available. Rapid rehousing vouchers provide secure housing that allows more intensive emergency shelter and transitional housing services to remain available for survivors who are in the most immediate danger or need more counseling, legal, and other services.
Neither the federal plan to prevent and end homelessness nor the continuing resolution for fiscal year 2016 running through December 11 allocate additional funding for emergency shelter or transitional housing for domestic violence survivors or allots rapid rehousing vouchers for individuals and families escaping domestic violence. No adult or child fleeing domestic violence should be turned away. Congress should provide funding for at least 9,200 to 11,600 additional emergency shelter and transitional housing beds and for rapid rehousing vouchers for individuals and families escaping domestic violence so that all domestic violence survivors have a safe place to live.