Without Housing Assistance, Victims of Domestic Violence Face Hard Choices, Report Says

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

A new report finds without housing assistance more domestic violence victims are leaving city shelters without having a safe place to go.

New Destiny Housing, a non-profit domestic violence provider, authored the report which surveyed 39 out of 43 city domestic violence shelters. The survey found 513 victims left the shelters —  a 5 percent increase in 2011 compared to the prior year — for "unknown locations."

There are roughly 2,200 emergency shelter beds for domestic violence victims fleeing abusive situations. Unlike homeless shelters, these beds are time limited and victims are given 135 days to find permanent places to stay. The deadline has been difficult to meet for many of the victims, who are largely low income women with few resources.  Now without housing assistance, New Destiny’s Catherine Trapani worries more victims are being forced to make difficult and unsafe choices, like going back to their abuser.

"Survivors that feel like they are out of options and out of ideas don't want to admit to the staff where they're going," said Trapani, "because they're ashamed to have to report that  after all the work they've done to get safe that they are in fact returning to an unsafe location."

A spokeswoman for the Human Resources Administration said it is reviewing the report, which they noted is not final. "HRA domestic violence shelter providers are committed to working with survivors to ensure safe and appropriate post-shelter placement," the spokeswoman said.

Shelter providers note that housing assistance for domestic violence victims has been chipped away at for years.  In April 2011 the city stopped issuing the last of the housing subsidies available to homeless families and domestic violence victims.

Ted McCourtney who runs the Sarah Burke House, a shelter in the Bronx, said this past fiscal year his group only had the resources to move 20 families to private apartments, down from over 100 in 2005 when more assistance was available.

McCourtney explained that to be accepted into a domestic violence shelter, a victim must be in severe danger making it all the more important that they find safe options.  "It's not at all uncommon for them to have just been strangled by their abuser, for their abuser to have pulled a gun on them, to threaten to kill them."

The lack of housing assistance for domestic violence victims is a nationwide issue. According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, approximately 59 percent of local programs don’t offer housing options.




More in:

Comments [2]

Susan Torres

Dear Ms. Rodriguez:

I am writing to you to introduce my book, Living on Three Spoons.

My concern for the homeless is deeply personal. I was homeless as a teenager, then again with my children as a single mother. I also worked at a homeless shelter in New York City for years (see NY Times article, “Single Mother – Creator of Miracles”). Homelessness comes in different forms. You could be living in a shelter or sleeping on the floor, couch, or extra bed of a friend or relative. That was my story many years ago. In this nation, a large majority of women in shelters are escaping domestic abuse. Domestic violence and drug abuse caused my homeless state.

Although shelters provide supportive services (beds, food, etc.) to the homeless, the root causes of the homeless should be “serviced”. Untreated mental illness, domestic violence, and substance abuse are among the leading causes. How about reaching out to the mind and spirit of the homeless? With that said, I would like to use my book, Living on Three Spoons to help others think about their choices. In short, it's my story about how I strived to change my family legacy for the sake of my children and myself as to avoid being homeless.

Would you consider reading Living on Three Spoons and writing a book review or interviewing me? I will forward a copy at your request.

Thank you.

Susan Torres

Oct. 12 2012 11:24 AM
Dona Anderson from New York, NY

This report sheds light on the lack of options for domestic violence victims timed out of DV shelters. It's important to note that many of these families end up in NYC family shelters once their 135 days are up. The Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness’s A New Path: An Immediate Plan to Reduce Family Homelessness proposes correcting the lack of support for domestic violence victims by opening up specialized Safety First Residences that operate in undisclosed locations, and provide specialized, non-time-limited shelters with support services and counseling for these families and children.

For more information, please go to:

Dona Anderson

Director, Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness

Oct. 04 2012 05:04 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.


Latest Newscast




WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public


Supported by