Throughout our Domestic Violence Awareness Month blog series, you will hear about domestic violence from various individuals, each with a unique perspective and experience. This week, in their own words, we hear from Jason and Rachal. Thank you to our contributing writers for sharing.
“While the sheltering of survivors is often a crucial first step in the recovery process, it is a short term, temporary piece of the longer-term recovery of survivors of domestic violence. After the shelter stay often comes the need for assistance in locating and securing longer term housing options for the survivors and their children. There are many barriers that survivors encounter, most of which may be outside of their control. Some of the barriers recently encountered by our survivors include having a lower credit score than required by landlords (due to many factors but often the result of economic abuse), lacking sufficient income to satisfy landlords request of 3x the monthly rent, an overall dearth of apartments for rent and a shortage of affordable apartments, and the recent rise in the average cost of rents, even in previously affordable areas. Here at A Safe Place, we offer our survivors a multitude of opportunities through programs and services to help break the aforementioned barriers. We are able to be their safety net during their trying times and also break the barrier to leave the abuser. Only when breaking these barriers is it possible for survivors to begin their healing phase in their recovery journey. Throughout our continuum of care, we are able to watch survivors flourish in their safe new residence. The opportunity to recover in their own space while demonstrating autonomy and self-efficacy is priceless. The chance to choose how they wish to live, as well as practice skills which may have been limited, occurs on a daily basis and is truly priceless.
When combining these above factors, positive and negative, with the length of waiting lists for local subsidized units and the waiting lists for Section 8 certificates, alternate means of securing housing become more important daily. A Safe Place provides a continuum of housing to survivors including Rapid Rehousing, transitional housing and permanent supportive housing in conjunction with our local homeless coalition and the Lake County Housing Authority. The local housing coalitions as funded by HUD (Housing and Urban Development) are often the key to finding additional housing options for our survivors who require financial assistance to secure new housing. Survivors transitioning into and out of temporary shelters qualify as being homeless due to their recent change of housing status and stay in the emergency shelter.
Your local housing or homeless Coalition is often made up of several housing and homeless service providers in the area who are all invested in providing services to those who are experiencing both recent and chronic homelessness. Those programs often have a long history of providing housing support to those in need, often focusing on different issues that are correlated to homelessness. These coalitions are the key to finding alternate housing options for our survivors. Survivors of domestic violence are eligible for multiple programs post shelter stay such as Rapid rehousing, temporary supportive housing and permanent supportive housing programs. The local coalitions hold the key to financial aid and funding to survivors in need of housing, as they move into the next step of their recovery from domestic violence. Programs such as rapid rehousing, temporary supportive housing, and some permanent supportive housing projects are accessed through these coalitions which also function as informational sharing clearinghouses about current openings and trends in the community. The coalitions also function as possible quicker routes to receiving an expedited Section 8 certification.”
— Jason Lenzi, Chief Programs Officer, A Safe Place
“In the years that I have been working in victim services and housing there is one thing that I know for certain – everyone has the right to safe housing and often times, obtaining it is the farthest thing from easy. Safe housing and financial freedom go hand-in-hand and while they may seem like no-brainers, I have found that survivors have often had to scratch and pull their way there when the opposite should be the case. Everyone has the right to a safe home and being financially free so why is it almost impossible to accomplish?
Financial abuse is behavior that seeks to control a person’s ability to acquire, use, or maintain economic resources, and threatens their self-sufficiency and financial autonomy. Between 94 – 99% of DV survivors have experienced financial abuse. When someone doesn’t have the opportunity to safe money, or even have access to finances, the complexity of leaving an abusive home grow larger and it will take longer to leave.
In the United States, we are in an economic crisis where the rent keeps rising and wages remain low. The federal minimum wage remains at $7.25/hour. While Illinois has a seemingly better minimum wage of $13/hour, for someone working 40 hours a week that equates to a yearly gross income of $27,040. Furthermore, its common knowledge that is there a lack of housing available, but the housing that is available is commonly unaffordable. According to ABC7, “the median rent for a one bedroom apartment in Chicago is currently $1,385, up almost 24% compared to this time last year”. For a single survivor without the additional worry of pets or children, they literally cannot afford to leave the abuse.
Many of you may feel fired up and energized with frustration over reading these facts, as I have felt writing them. I am truly fortunate to have my dream job as the ICADV Housing and Economic Support Specialist. This means that it is my job to advocate for survivors and agencies for more funding that is less restrictive, find resources to help bridge relationships with burned landlords, assist with shelter policies, and continuously fight to make financial freedom and safe housing access easier for survivors. This will only be accomplished when survivors and advocates alike can easily find safe housing that they can afford and be paid fair wages. Until then, I’ll have my sleeves rolled up and hope you will too. I cannot wait to work myself out of a job.”
— Rachal Glenn, ICADV Housing & Economic Support Specialist