The COVID-19 pandemic has brought multiple challenges for people throughout the world. In the United States, it’s been an ongoing challenge, as death and unemployment rates skyrocketed. For domestic violence survivors, the pandemic brought an additional challenge, as cases of domestic violence and intimate partner violence have risen while staying at home and socially distancing.
One area that survivors need assistance with at all times, which is magnified during the pandemic, is safe, affordable housing. PCADV is committed to supporting member programs in developing new innovative housing initiatives and helping member programs implement the Domestic Violence Housing First (DVHF) philosophy of service because we never want a survivor to have to choose between an abusive home and homelessness.
Because of this commitment, PCADV has partnered with the National Alliance for Safe Housing (NASH), to establish the COVID-19 Safe Housing Capacity Building Project. Through NASH’s partnership, PCADV has been granted $50,000 in CARES Act funding from Regional Housing Legal Services to use from August to November among three counties in southwest PA. This funding is highly flexible, and will either keep survivors in safe housing or assist them to find safe and stable housing as soon as possible.
As seen in other states and programs across the country, flexible funding works in getting survivors the help they need. If a survivor has safe affordable housing, they are far more equipped to handle the many obstacles that survivors often need to navigate.
Survivors often have a laundry list of items that they need assistance with, in addition to rent. With the flexible funding approach, survivors partner with a domestic violence advocate to identify where these funds could be best used to keep them house. The money can be used to get them into a new apartment, pay for food, school supplies, or any other expense survivors may need to assist them in making sure their housing is stable.
The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) , who funded a DVHF project across California, gives the example of a survivor needing help with car repairs or paying for childcare costs so that they do not lose their job,.
The member programs that NASH and PCADV are partnering with spread across urban, suburban, and rural areas, and have experience with DV housing, which makes them ready to step in and help survivors.
The flexible funding approach has worked, as evidenced by the work that Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence has done in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
After finding stable housing and being provided the necessary support in rebuilding their lives, the data shows the following:
- 97 percent of survivors experienced an increased level of safety and stability for themselves and their children
- 99 percent of survivors said that survivor advocacy helped to restore their sense of dignity. Before and after accessing housing, survivors work with their advocate on personal needs and goals related to stability
- Survivors felt that safe, stable homes support healing from trauma and promote health and well-being
- 96 percent of survivors retained housing 18 months after accessing housing. Stable homes normalize life for children, allowing them to stay in the same school and play without fear
- Living in housing located in the community, survivors reconnect or establish new connections to the community
Dr. Cris Sullivan, Ph. D, a professor on ecological-community psychology at Michigan State and gender-based violence researcher, will be evaluating the program. Dr. Sullivan’s previous research looked at the ways that domestic violence services are provided nationwide and will compare the success of the programs at a micro-level across different location types (rural, urban, suburban) to show that the applied approach works to help survivors across the country, in all areas.