The Cycle of Abuse and Homelessness

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One of the most important factors in helping domestic abuse survivors escape their abusers is their ability to find safe, affordable housing. Unfortunately, this often proves a difficult task. Not only do abusers frequently exert control of their victim’s finances, but available low-income housing is at historic lows both locally and nationally. Many individuals who seek to escape their abuser often find themselves without a place to call home.

Domestic abuse is, in fact, the leading cause of homelessness among women. According to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP), more than 90 percent of homeless women are victims of severe physical or sexual abuse. Often times, it is in their attempts to leave their abuser, and having nowhere else to turn, that is the cause of their homelessness.

The decision between staying with an abusive partner or being homeless is a choice that no one should ever have to make, but it is an unfortunate reality for too many victims of abuse. In a 2012 study, 74 percent of survivors cited economic reasons as to why they stayed with their abuser. In 2016 a full 87% of survivors escaping domestic violence could not find safe, affordable housing, greatly diminishing their options for permanently leaving their abusers.

While domestic abuse acts as a catalyst to homelessness, many who end up homeless are also still very vulnerable to additional violence. According to a report by the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence 32% of women, 27% of men, and 38% of transgender individuals reported experiencing physical or sexual violence within 12 months of homelessness. Homeless youth may be especially vulnerable to violence. The same report references a study indicating that 70% of homeless youth experience violence, with 1 in 3 youth specifically reporting sexual assault.

It is at the core of YWCA Clark County’s mission to empower and advocate for domestic abuse survivors, and help them gain the emotional and financial stability needed to escape the cycle of abuse. To do this work we rely on the vital support of our generous community.

Sarah came to Vancouver pregnant and escaping stalking by her ex-partner.
Funding from YWCA helped Sarah find affordable housing,
and provide a safe home for herself and her child.

In 2016, our SafeChoice Domestic Violence Program spent 8,193 hours advocating on behalf of 964 individuals offering guidance, information and referrals, safety planning, support groups, legal advocacy, and a secure place to stay at our gender inclusive domestic violence shelter, which is the only domestic violence shelter currently in Clark County. In total, 43 adults and 66 children were able to escape violence and find temporary housing at our shelter in 2016.

We not only want to provide survivors with counseling and advocacy while they are staying with us, we want them to feel at home. This is why our shelter is gender inclusive, and even allows pets because we don’t want families to choose between staying at a shelter or staying with their loved ones. We also provide private rooms, so that no one has to share space with a stranger.
Additionally, there are no set meal times or plans, and those residing at our shelter can choose when to eat and what to prepare based on what feels comfortable to them.

We also want survivors staying at our shelter to feel they are on their own timetable. We have a midnight curfew so residents may come and go during the day as they please. Residents can also choose when to access one-on-one advocacy sessions, legal resources, and our Children’s Advocacy Program (CAP), which assists families in dealing with the effects of domestic violence.

Finally residents of our shelter can stay up to 60 days, to allow them the time and flexibility to get the emotional, legal, and financial assistance they need to feel empowered to permanently move on from their abusive partner.

While we are deeply proud of the work we have done, we want to do even more to advocate on behalf of our community, and that is why we need your support. Your donations not only help to offer tangible services to the individuals and families that come to YWCA Clark County looking for assistance, but they also send a message that Clark County is united in our mission to end domestic violence and empower survivors to succeed.

Please consider donating today, and continue checking our blog to learn more about the challenges domestic abuse survivors face, and how with your support, YWCA can help.