After her boyfriend threatened to kill her, Davida said she saw no choice but to abandon her home and flee with her son. Fearing she would be stalked — an exceedingly common scenario, experts said — she wound up in a shelter in another state, a move that cost her a job at a call center, just before the pandemic hit. That single episode, when her boyfriend pummeled her without warning, destabilized her entire life.
Even after a victim escapes an abuser, the situation may be fraught. “Often you’re dealing with a housing lawyer, a custody lawyer, a shelter provider, a counselor, a counselor for children; you might have Child Protective Services involved,” said Liz Roberts, the chief executive of Safe Horizon, a New York service provider. “What we ask of survivors in those situations, and the complexity of the systems they have to navigate, is really daunting.”
With the help of a career-readiness program at Sanctuary for Families, a shelter and service provider, Davida turned an internship into a part-time job. But more than a year after the assault, she and her son are still homeless. “Every day I wake up, I’m starting all over,” she said.
Crisis counselors say that alleviating survivors’ housing issues would help set their recovery on the right track, but vouchers are not the only solution. Federal and local governments could also prioritize their needs by “continuing the moratorium on evictions, and prohibiting street sweeps of people experiencing homelessness, both of which disproportionately affect women fleeing domestic violence,” said Caroline Bettinger-López, a law professor at the University of Miami, who was previously a White House adviser on violence against women.
The resources in the rescue plan for emergency housing assistance are to remain available until 2030.
Ms. Cottman called the acknowledgment from the Biden administration a huge moment of inflection. After years in which providers struggled to gain public attention and protect their meager budgets, they can begin to think bigger about how to help survivors.
“We are able to really think about, what are the things that our communities need?” she said. “What are the pieces that we can reimagine, while at the same time maintaining funds for core services? You can’t do any of this, without ensuring victims and survivors have places to go.”
Emily Cochrane contributed reporting.