One of the biggest obstacles domestic violence survivors face is affordable, safe housing.
One of the leading causes of homelessness among women and children in the US is domestic violence. A report in the Journal of American Medical Women’s Association estimated that 92% of homeless women experienced severe physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives. A survey in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine reported that women were four times more likely to experience housing instability when they experienced domestic violence within the past year. However, despite these findings, survivors of domestic violence rarely qualify for typical low-income housing or rapid rehousing programs because they do not fit HUD’s definition of “chronically homeless.”
In 1991, Family Rescue opened the first transitional housing program in the country specifically for survivors of domestic violence and their children. Ridgeland Apartments and Children’s Program includes 22 apartments, ranging from one to three bedroom units, that are open to survivors with children. In 2019, Family Rescue started New Heights Apartments (NHA). Unlike Ridgeland Apartments, this program is open to both single survivors of domestic violence as well as survivors with children nor will all the apartments be in a single complex. NHA consists of 54 units – 18 transitional housing units (four project-based and 14 scattered-site) and 36 scattered-site rapid rehousing units. There will be 15 one-bedroom units, 23 two-bedroom units, and 16 three-bedroom units. Each client will have their own lease through the landlord. Family Rescue assists the client with the management of their unit, meaning we intervene if the client is having trouble with maintenance issues or other issues that arise with renting an apartment. For the majority of our clients, as well as the ones we will be targeting, this is the first time they will be renting an apartment in their name, so they need a little extra support to help them understand what the landlord/tenant relationship looks like, including not being taken advantage of.
One of the advantages of having scattered sites across the city is it allows the clients to move between apartments, based on a tenants needs and changing situations. This flexibility is especially attractive to domestic violence survivors, who might need to move quickly if their abuser finds them. We have chosen to partner with multi-site landlords, so the client can easily move between sites if deemed necessary, transferring her lease to the new unit seamlessly. Having the units scattered throughout the city is positive on multiple levels. First, we are more likely to keep the client in her same neighborhood. Then, she is able to stay where she feels most comfortable and not combine the stress of learning a new part of town with the stress of rebuilding her life after leaving her abuser. It also allows a victim with children to keep them in the same schools, helping to minimize the trauma of moving on the child, especially if the move happens during the school year. Finally, having sites throughout the city allows the victim to move far away from the neighborhood of her abuser, if she chooses, so he does not spot her at the store or around the neighborhood, for example. This also means that the victim moves to a neighborhood where the abuser does not have the same connections to keep tabs on her and he might not even have the means to go to where she is, if he finds her. While having sites throughout the city allows us to reach more clients, it also means our current clients have more options and places to flee, if her abuser is particularly persistent and successful in finding her.
We aim to assist 124 clients on their path towards self-sufficiency in a violence-free life. In the 36 rapid-rehousing units, we aim for those clients to pay market rent within one year, without the assistance of subsidies.
One of the advantages of having rapid-rehousing units in NHA is that clients are able to move into permanent housing without having an income. This gives clients the flexibility to enter permanent housing while still searching for a job or just getting started with one, both common situations throughout the pandemic. It also gives our clients the flexibility to make long-term career decisions, such as going back to school, without worrying about paying market-rate rent.