In 2010, the City Council identified safe housing for the survivors/victims of domestic violence as a priority issue to work on. Seattle has a long track record of working to reduce domestic violence, and the Council had identified working on domestic violence issues as one of our priorities for 2010. In looking at the area where additional resources could be most useful, we concluded that providing housing for domestic violence victims was a major concern. We have now designed and funded programs to address this, and these are now moving into implementation.
Domestic violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness for women, but it has often not been part of the discussion around community housing programs. Victims/survivors face considerable challenges in accessing the safe shelters and transitional and permanent housing that is critical for their long term safety.
In order to better understand the complexity of this issue, Councilmembers took a training course on domestic violence, conducted by the Human Services Department, using the model they have developed for City employees. The Council also held a forum with a panel of domestic violence survivors and housing providers to review the areas of need, and to identify where our resources could be most useful.
Our Human Services Department (HSD) will take three major actions in 2012 to implement this priority.
- In the spring of 2012, HSD will begin the process of renewing and modifying our contracts with human service providers who work on homelessness and housing issues. The new approach to funding will be guided by a long-term Strategic Investment Plan that was developed in 2011 in conjunction with an extensive community process, and that involved staff working on domestic violence issues. Through this process and the restructuring of the funding process to follow the Investment Plan, there will be greater opportunities to ensure that agencies working with homeless populations and low income housing take into account the specific needs of domestic violence victims in their proposals.
- Because domestic violence survivors often have children with them, and also have skills and education that can allow them to quickly reestablish themselves in a secure living situation, they are good candidates for rapid transition into more stable housing. HSD is currently piloting a program that will provide rental/move-in assistance for clients who have left their homes under stress or are ready to move from temporary shelter into more stable housing. The program has $27,500 in funding initially, and if it turns out to be successful, HSD would look at moving other funds into it.
- Shelter providers need training on how to deal with the special concerns of domestic violence survivors. Among other critical issues, survivors often fear further abuse, and need to have their identities safeguarded and privacy protected. The City has partnered with the King County Housing Authority to conduct training sessions to increase the awareness of domestic violence among housing providers, and to give them guidance on how they might modify their screening or intake procedures to serve domestic violence victims more effectively.
There are tens of thousands of domestic violence incidents annually in King County, and there is substantial evidence that a significant portion of the women and women with children experiencing homelessness are victims/survivors. These programs will help to ensure that appropriate services are provided and that these women and children have the opportunities to reestablish secure lives.