For many survivors of violence, and particularly in cases of domestic violence, “housing is not a peripheral issue, or an issue that can be postponed for resolution later on. Rather, for women who fear for their safety and for their lives, housing is an immediate and pivotal issue on which the question of escape itself rests" (Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, 2006).
Access to longer-term housing that is safe and affordable for women and their children is a critical part of empowering survivors to recover from their experiences with violence. When women are ready to leave the shelter, support for quick access to new safe and affordable housing can help to:
Supporting women to find and access new housing in a timely manner may involve:
Considerations for establishing a housing programme for survivors include:
What is Adequate Housing?
Adequate housing requires the availability of services, materials, facilities and infrastructure, including access to water and sanitation; heating, cooling, and lighting; energy; washing facilities; food storage and refuse disposal; as well as emergency services.
Adequate housing requires thoughtful location to allow access to employment options, health-care services, schools, childcare centres and other social facilities.
Adequate housing must be affordable. Since affordability will differ for women and men in many contexts, it is important to take into account the gender disparity in income and access to financial resources, and to prioritize the allocation of social or public housing to those who are unable to meet the cost of housing.
Adequate housing requires accessibility to all groups of women. Housing law, policy and programmes must reflect the needs of women who may be especially disadvantaged and who encounter intersectional discrimination, including widows, elderly women, lesbians, homeless women, migrant women, women with disabilities, women who may be single mothers or single heads of households, women living with or otherwise affected by chronic illnesses such as HIV/AIDS and mental health disorders, women belonging to racial/ethnic/linguistic minorities, domestic workers, sex workers, illiterate women and women who have been displaced.
Adequate housing requires that women have security of tenure through legal protection against forced eviction, harassment or threats.
Source: extracted and slightly adapted from United Nations General Assembly (A/HR/C/19/53). 2011. Report of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context.
Rapid Re-housing Programmes
Women may be able to avoid staying in shelters where there are rapid re-housing programmes which locate housing in the community for individuals or families at-risk of homelessness and assist in the negotiation with landlords, in order to promote housing retention and link individuals and families with needed services in their community. Rapid re-housing strategies have been used in rural, suburban and urban communities, and in areas with limited shelter resources, but are only suitable where there is low risk for perpetrators to retaliate or commit further abuse.
Important elements of practice in such programmes are:
Women's shelters may work with rapid re-housing programmes in the community to advocate for women's access to housing, support women in communicating their housing needs and making application for housing, and providing outreach services to support women exiting the shelter, in a manner that is informed by the issues surrounding violence, as well as the woman's specific needs (National Alliance to End Homelessness, 2008).
In 2008, New Destiny Housing, launched Project Safe Home in New York City to match domestic violence survivors with re-rental housing before they left the shelter. In partnership with domestic violence shelters, property managers, and the Human Resources Administration (HRA), the initiative placed 122 families in permanent housing reserved for homeless families over a 3 year period. The initiative addressed common challenged faced by survivors in accessing housing following a stay in a shelter and conducted individual counseling for survivors alongside group workshops to help them understand their options to access available apartments and prepare for the application process. (New Destiny Housing, 2011).
See the full evaluation report
In the State of Oregon, the Volunteers of America Home Free SHARE project, funded by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provided rapid-re-housing support (using both emergency hotel vouchers and subsidized housing assistance) to women and their children, alongside employment assistance and other protection measures, as an alternative to emergency shelter. The programme resulted in a high-rate of housing stability for domestic violence survivors 18-months after receiving services and has demonstrated outcomes related to well-being similar to those experienced by women who received shelter services (Niolon et al., 2009).
Watch a webinar on the programme.
See the programme evaluation.
For Landlords, Under Your Roof: What to Do about Domestic Violence. (Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence). This 2-page brochure provides an example of information provided for landlords to understand their rights and responsibilities and how to access support when renting to women victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. Available in English.
Housing Help: Protections Available for Survivors of Domestic Violence. (Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. n.d.). This 2-page brochure provides an example of information helpful for survivors wishing to terminate a lease, changing locks and get legal help. Available in English.
Domestic Violence and Housing: A Manual for California Advocates. (National Housing Law Project, 2009). This resource provides examples of homelessness prevention assistance, victim relocation assistance options, and affordable housing subsidies provided in California, United States. Available in English.
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