Location

By Location Alaska Albuquerque Allentown Amsterdam Anaheim Anchorage Ann Arbor Atlanta Austin Baton Rouge Bend Binghamton Boston Boulder Canada Cardiff Charlotte Chatsworth Chicago Chippenham Cleveland Columbia SC Columbus Dallas Denver Des Moines Detroit Edmonton Eugene Fayetteville Fort McMurray Fredericton Gainesville Glendale Great Falls Greensboro Harbor City Harrisburg Hawaii Hawthorne Hollywood Honolulu houston Ithaca Kalkaska Kelowna Koreatown Las Vegas Lima London London (Canada) Los Angeles Louisville Manchester Miami Minneapolis/St Paul Montreal Nashville New Orleans New York City Nickelsville Norway Oakland Ocala Oslo Ottawa Oxford Paradise Pasadena Peru Philadelphia Phoenix Pine Ridge Pittsburgh Portland Reseda Sacramento Salt Lake City San Diego San Francisco San Jose San Luis Obispo Santa Monica Saskatoon Seattle Shawnee Skid Row Springfield St John's St Louis St. Petersburg Syracuse Tacoma Tampa Toronto Traverse City Tulsa United Kingdom Vancouver Venice Beach Vermont Victoria Wales Washington DC Wentzville Westwood Wichita Wilmington Winnipeg Yellowknife By topic Addiction Advocacy Affordable housing Art and Music Awareness Charity Cold Weather College Students Community Involvement Coronavirus Couch Surfing Couple Criminalization Data Disabled Divorce Domestic violence Drug testing Education Employment Eviction Ex-convict Faith based Families Family conflict Female Financial crisis Foster care Harm reduction Health care HIV/AIDS Homeless count Homeless deaths Hostels (UK shelters) Hotels Housing First HUD Human trafficking Identification Incarceration Indigenous Invisible People Invisible Stories Job loss K2/Spice (Synthetic Marijuana) LGBT Libraries Lived Experience Male Mental illness Mobile Homeless Natural disasters NIMBY Outreach Panhandling Peer Support Pets Poverty Pregnant PTSD Public Feeding Racism Recycling Relationships Research Rural Schools Seniors Sex Offenders Sex Worker Shelters Single Parent Social Media Social Security Socks Solutions Street Soccer Survival sex System Failure Systems Change Technology Tent Cities Tiny Homes Transgender Travelers Veteran Vietnam Veteran Violence Waiting list Welfare Working poor Youth EVENTS @home contests PBS road trip road trip 2009 road trip 2010 road trip 2011 road trip 2013 to fight youth homelessness sober birthday campaign SXSW TEDx INTERVIEWS Learn More Canadian Homelessness Coronavirus and Homelessness Criminalization of Homelessness Family Homelessness Homeless Seniors Homeless Veterans Homeless Youth Homelessness Mobile Homelessness Panhandling Tent Encampments U.K. Homelessness MISCELLANEOUS 360 video Awards Cause Marketing Dream Center Gates Foundation Google Glass Media Patreon Tribute World Trade Center YouTube More Updates

topic

By Location Alaska Albuquerque Allentown Amsterdam Anaheim Anchorage Ann Arbor Atlanta Austin Baton Rouge Bend Binghamton Boston Boulder Canada Cardiff Charlotte Chatsworth Chicago Chippenham Cleveland Columbia SC Columbus Dallas Denver Des Moines Detroit Edmonton Eugene Fayetteville Fort McMurray Fredericton Gainesville Glendale Great Falls Greensboro Harbor City Harrisburg Hawaii Hawthorne Hollywood Honolulu houston Ithaca Kalkaska Kelowna Koreatown Las Vegas Lima London London (Canada) Los Angeles Louisville Manchester Miami Minneapolis/St Paul Montreal Nashville New Orleans New York City Nickelsville Norway Oakland Ocala Oslo Ottawa Oxford Paradise Pasadena Peru Philadelphia Phoenix Pine Ridge Pittsburgh Portland Reseda Sacramento Salt Lake City San Diego San Francisco San Jose San Luis Obispo Santa Monica Saskatoon Seattle Shawnee Skid Row Springfield St John's St Louis St. Petersburg Syracuse Tacoma Tampa Toronto Traverse City Tulsa United Kingdom Vancouver Venice Beach Vermont Victoria Wales Washington DC Wentzville Westwood Wichita Wilmington Winnipeg Yellowknife By topic Addiction Advocacy Affordable housing Art and Music Awareness Charity Cold Weather College Students Community Involvement Coronavirus Couch Surfing Couple Criminalization Data Disabled Divorce Domestic violence Drug testing Education Employment Eviction Ex-convict Faith based Families Family conflict Female Financial crisis Foster care Harm reduction Health care HIV/AIDS Homeless count Homeless deaths Hostels (UK shelters) Hotels Housing First HUD Human trafficking Identification Incarceration Indigenous Invisible People Invisible Stories Job loss K2/Spice (Synthetic Marijuana) LGBT Libraries Lived Experience Male Mental illness Mobile Homeless Natural disasters NIMBY Outreach Panhandling Peer Support Pets Poverty Pregnant PTSD Public Feeding Racism Recycling Relationships Research Rural Schools Seniors Sex Offenders Sex Worker Shelters Single Parent Social Media Social Security Socks Solutions Street Soccer Survival sex System Failure Systems Change Technology Tent Cities Tiny Homes Transgender Travelers Veteran Vietnam Veteran Violence Waiting list Welfare Working poor Youth EVENTS @home contests PBS road trip road trip 2009 road trip 2010 road trip 2011 road trip 2013 to fight youth homelessness sober birthday campaign SXSW TEDx INTERVIEWS Learn More Canadian Homelessness Coronavirus and Homelessness Criminalization of Homelessness Family Homelessness Homeless Seniors Homeless Veterans Homeless Youth Homelessness Mobile Homelessness Panhandling Tent Encampments U.K. Homelessness MISCELLANEOUS 360 video Awards Cause Marketing Dream Center Gates Foundation Google Glass Media Patreon Tribute World Trade Center YouTube More Updates

Options for Abuse: Homelessness or Domestic Violence

domestic violence

“Why does she stay?” It’s a simple question. The answer is not. Victims of domestic violence have developed a complex mix of physical, emotional, financial and psychological difficulties. Yet we can point out one truth that forces the victim to stay with an abuser. She won’t be any safer when she’s homeless.

The U.S. system designed to reduce homelessness is woefully inadequate. Affordable housing just isn’t there for people trying to escape abuse in their homes. A point in time study done in 2018 by the National Network to End Domestic Violence reports that domestic violence hotlines received 19,459 calls in one day.

Emergency shelters had to turn away 6,972 victims who needed a safe place to stay because the shelters were full. Multiply that by 364 days and you start to see the scale of the problem.

That is not the only indicator of need. The Domestic Violence and Homeless Services Coalition conducted focus groups among domestic violence survivors in Los Angeles. It found that 90% of the women in that group who had experienced domestic violence experienced homelessness. 62% of the survivors were homeless at the time of the study.

“Housing is a constant need for domestic violence survivors. We get calls and walk-ins almost every day from women, most with children, who are fleeing abusive situations and are in desperate need of housing. We always have a waiting list.”Utah Advocate

Women Aren’t the Only Victims of Domestic Violence

We tend to think of women at the mention of domestic violence – for good reason. 85% of victims are women. We need to acknowledge it’s not exclusive to one gender. One in seven men report incidents of DV but men’s shelters for victims are rare. While most cities have shelters for homeless men, these environments are not designed to address the unique trauma of male victims.

Youth shelters face legal obligations that can interfere with outreach. By law they have a duty to notify the youth’s family or child services departments, even when the youth left their home due to physical, mental or sexual abuse. Homeless youth will not ask for help if it means going home to their abusers.

It’s even tougher for people with different sexual orientations. Gay men and lesbian women experience abuse by partners at a rate of 26% and 44% respectively but prejudice against them still exists within the shelter system. It’s even trickier to house transgender individuals.

Allowing them to retain their dignity is the right thing to do but presents logistical issues for clients and providers. A trans woman cannot easily go into women’s housing; but out of respect for her personal identity shelter, as well as risks of abuse by other men, staff are reluctant to ask her to stay in a men’s shelter.

Victims Often Face Financial Obstacles when Seeking a Safe Place to Live

In the best of situations, emergency shelters can give only brief respites from the turmoil in victims’ homes. The average length of stay is 60 – 90 days. Survivors may be coping with depression, trauma, hopelessness, isolation and substance abuse disorders. Abusive partners often block employment and education, and control all the family finances, keeping victims financially dependent. Healing emotionally and physically takes time as does building reliable income. Ninety days just isn’t enough when affordable housing can take years to acquire. We expect victims to leave their homes without any idea when they may have a safe place to live again.

Even when victims have been working, or have skills to work, finding affordable housing is a daunting task if they have low wages. Housing costs have risen faster than wage growth for years. According to “Out of Reach 2018,” the National Low-Income Housing Coalition estimates the average renter’s hourly wage in the United States is $16.88, while people need to earn over $22 per hour to afford the average rent for a two-bedroom home.

Put another way, a worker earning the federal minimum wage must work at least 99 hours per week to afford a one-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States. A wage of $22 per hour is beyond most victims in the months after they escape, if ever.

It is much worse for disabled people relying on Social Security Income. Many domestic violence victims are unable to work initially as they recover from the injuries done to them. For example, traumatic brain injuries plague many victims. They may need to rely on SSI. The maximum federal monthly SSI payment in 2019 is $771. On this income, an SSI recipient can afford rent of only $216 a month.

Victims of Domestic Violence Can’t Wait Years for Affordable Housing

Traditionally families have received affordable housing or rent assistance from their local housing authority. Waiting lists have grown so long in many communities that it is not a realistic option. Housing authorities across America are not even accepting applications because the waits are already years long. At the time of this writing 16 communities in the entire U.S. are accepting applications now or will begin accepting them in June 2019. That doesn’t mean the applicants will get housing assistance right away. It means they get a place on the waiting list.

A study by the Health Care for the Homeless Council found that half of its participants reported being the victim of a violent attack while homeless. If a victim must choose between abuse in their home or the high risk of abuse on the street, it’s a stretch to think they are better off on the street.

If the offenders on the street don’t get them, city authorities may, in their own way. More and more cities have criminalized homelessness. No Safe Place reports that 53% of cities prohibit sitting or lying down in particular public places. Other cities have done everything from installing jagged rocks under bridges to sweeping away tents and all the belongings of people who don’t have anything else to protect them from rain or snow.

Imagine running from an abuser to find yourself in jail because you and your children have no where to go except your car or a sleeping bag.

Next time you wonder why a domestic violence victim doesn’t leave her abuser, consider where she should go exactly. Until the U.S. is willing to provide enough shelter and affordable housing for victims, we are tacitly allowing it to continue. As a country we look the other way and abdicate our responsibility to be part of the solution.


Maryellen Hess Cameron

Maryellen Hess Cameron

  

Maryellen Hess Cameron is a freelance writer and non-profit consultant who helps organizations define and communicate their missions. She has a Master's degree in Public Administratoin, and led two agencies serving people with histories of homelessness, mental illness, abuse and poverty.

Related Topics



Your support can create amazing change

Join the campaign to end homelessness by supporting the only newsroom focused solely on the topic of homelessness. Our original reporting — posted five to seven days a week — can also be found on Apple News and Google News. Through storytelling, education, news, and advocacy, we are changing the narrative on homelessness.

Invisible People is a nonprofit organization. We rely on the support of friends like you — people who understand that well-written, carefully researched stories can change minds about this issue. And that’s what leads to true transformation and policy change. Our writers have their fingers on the pulse of homeless communities. Many are formerly or currently homeless themselves. They are the real experts, passionate about ending homelessness. Your support helps us tell the true story of this crisis and solutions that will end it. Your donations help make history by telling the real story of homelessness to inspire tangible actions to end it.

Your donation, big or small, will help bring real change.

DONATE NOW



Get the Invisible People newsletter


RECENT STORIES

homeless man in austin

Martin

Los Angeles Homeless Woman Lost Her Legs to Frostbite

Monica

homeless man in austin

David

Disabled Homeless Mom

Cori and her daughter


RECENT ARTICLES

housing is healthcare

Housing Is Healthcare

Mobile Homes

As Rents Skyrocket for Manufactured Homes, So Does Risk of Homelessness

Remembering Shay

Remembering Shay, My Homeless Friend

rent in a harlem apartment building

Harlem Apartment Residents on Rent Strike Over Building Conditions

Get the Invisible People newsletter