Pennsylvania Domestic Violence Public Policy Action

Housing

HOUSING: TRANSITIONAL AND PERMANENT HOUSINS

PROBLEM

Access to housing is critical for battered women trying to obtain safety, autonomy, and independence. It is the basic foundation upon which battered women escape abuse. At the same time, domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness and a frequent cause of eviction for victims who rent their homes. Battered women with additional barriers such as a lack of transportation, immigration status, or lack of child care, or those who have substance abuse and/or mental health issues, are unable to access and/or maintain the limited housing that does exist. Battered women are too often caught in no-win situation: without housing resources, battered women are forced to remain in abusive homes—yet are also being evicted or otherwise penalized by housing providers as a result of the abusers’ conduct.

Domestic violence programs also face a host of challenges when trying to meet victims’ housing needs. The greatest barrier to developing transitional housing is a lack of funding. Nonetheless, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) continues to prioritize “permanent” housing above the dire need for more emergency and transitional housing, creating policies and practices that pose further challenges to meeting the need for safe and affordable short-term housing options for battered women.

PROGRESS

  • Through several consecutive legislative sessions, PCADV has successfully opposed legislation that would accelerate the eviction process and harm victims by limiting their housing options and shortening the time they have to find alternative housing.
  • PCADV has researched the impact of “nuisance ordinances” that result in penalizing battered women for calls to police and/or police response to the residence. PCADV is beginning a multistrategy response to the problem, which will include systems change advocacy and eventual legislative reform to protect residents’ rights to access police protection.
  • PCADV staff developed a curriculum and have conducted several trainings throughout the state on the substantial changes VAWA 2005 made to protect public housing tenants and Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher recipients from discrimination based on their status as a victim of domestic violence. The VAWA Housing training is available to all programs upon request.
  • PCADV staff partnered with the Housing Alliance to advocate for the establishment of a state housing trust fund, legislation that was enacted in late 2010.

2012 ACTION STEPS ON HOUSING

  • PCADV staff will update the 2004 publication “Housing Resources for Domestic Violence Survivors and Their Advocates” to reflect developments since its last publication. This resource would be made available on the PCADV website for all programs and their staff.
  • PCADV will continue its commitment to protecting tenants’ rights and promoting increased housing development through collaboration with the Housing Alliance.
  • PCADV will continue our work on “nuisance” ordinances that penalize tenants for police calls, engaging in a multi-pronged strategy of community education and organizing, systems advocacy within public housing agencies, technical assistance in impact litigation, and developing legislation that would protect tenants’ right to call 9-1-1 without penalty by their housing provider.
  • PCADV will develop technical assistance materials to better equip member programs in their advocacy efforts with their local public housing authorities to establish a preference for domestic violence victims in their admissions and transfers policies.
  • PCADV will continue to advocate for increased funding for the VAWA Transitional Housing program and for HUD funding and policies that give due priority to the need for emergency and transitional housing for battered women and their children.

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