by Emily Ostrowski
YWCA Clark County’s SafeChoice Domestic Violence Program works around the clock to help survivors of domestic abuse escape dangerous situations, and offers women, children, and families safe and stable housing both on a temporary and long-term basis. It is vital, life-saving work, and it is something we could not do alone.
We rely not only on our dedicated employees and volunteers, but also on financial donations from our community, as well as grants from organizations that support our mission. Bank of America is one such organization, and we are incredibly grateful that they endowed us with a $10,000 grant in July of this year to help us secure housing advocacy for survivors of domestic abuse.
One of the biggest obstacles survivors of domestic abuse face when trying to escape abusive situations is finding a safe place to stay. In 2015, 36% of new participants in our SafeChoice Program were experiencing homelessness when they first sought our services.
We’ve written before about the link between domestic violence and homelessness. As we noted then, domestic abuse is the leading cause of homelessness among women, as many find that when they try and leave an abusive partner they have no resources or access to stable housing. Consequently, many women are forced to chose between homelessness and staying in an abusive situation, with a study in 2012 indicating that 74% of survivors cited economic reasons as to why they stayed with their abuser.
Add to this information the fact that Clark County is similar to much of the nation in experiencing an affordable housing crisis, which has reduced housing in the area to less than a 2% vacancy rate. This lack of resources is causing many of our most vulnerable residents to be the most negatively impacted. Up until this last year we have always been able to support 50% of our shelter families in securing safe housing after they leave our shelter, however in 2016 that number dropped to only 29%.
To that end YWCA has made affordable housing a public policy priority, and we embrace a housing first model when it comes to aiding our homeless SafeChoice participants.
From the National Alliance to End Homelessness:
“Housing First is a homeless assistance approach that prioritizes providing permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness. This approach is guided by the belief that people need basic necessities like food and a place to live before attending to anything less critical, such as getting a job, budgeting properly, or attending to substance use issues.”
The grant from Bank of America has helped us to serve 14 households, made up of 16 adults and 19 children, in total. Funds went towards rent assistance to prevent eviction, deposit for new rentals, and past due utilities assistance, among other needs, all with the ultimate goal of making sure these families had access to a secure, safe and permanent residence.
At YWCA Clark County we firmly believe that everyone has a right to affordable housing, and we recognize that when housing resources are limited it is often the most vulnerable members of a community who suffer the greatest consequences. Because of the grant from Bank of America, we were able to provide more resources and advocacy for those in our SafeChoice program to secure safe, affordable housing. We thank Bank of America for their generosity, and for their invaluable aid in helping us support survivors of domestic abuse.