Understanding the Intersections

Interpersonal violence is a leading cause of homelessness for women and children, and the need for safe and affordable housing is one of the most pressing concerns for survivors of violence and abuse. Many survivors face unique barriers to accessing shelter and affordable housing due to the power and control dynamics involved in these types of abuse and the economic and trauma impacts that result. These barriers are often exacerbated for those most marginalized in our society and with the least access to resources, including many survivors of color, Native Americans, immigrants, those living in poverty and geographically isolated, survivors with disabilities, and others. In addition, systemic factors such as institutional discrimination and the lack of affordable housing in communities create further challenges for many survivors. At the same time, housing programs can provide critical services for survivors and are often a key component in helping survivors find safety and stability.

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Learn more about the intersections between domestic violence, sexual assault, housing, and homelessness from available studies, literature reviews, and reports.

RESEARCH BRIEF: 'There's Just All These Moving Parts:' Helping Domestic Violence Survivors Obtain Housing

2018
Cris Sullivan
Gabriela Lopez-Zeron
Heather Bomsta
Anne Menard

Advocates working with domestic violence (DV) survivors to obtain housing are committed to the principles of Housing First and Rapid Rehousing that recommend getting clients into permanent housing as quickly as possible. They struggle, however, with how “as quickly as possible” may be defined by funders and policy makers who do not fully understand the intricacies of their efforts. The purpose of this study was to better understand the complexities involved in helping IPV survivors obtain safe and stable housing.

RESEARCH BRIEF: IPV Survivors' Perceptions of How a Flexible Funding Housing Intervention Impacted Their Children

2018
Heather Bomsta
Cris Sullivan

An estimated 15.5 million American children are exposed to intimate partner violence (IPV) every year. Such exposure negatively impacts children’s health, development and academic performance and may also be accompanied by housing instability or homelessness. Children growing up with periods of homelessness or housing instability are at risk for many of the same detrimental outcomes as children exposed to IPV. This brief highlights key findings from a qualitative, longitudinal study examining mothers’ perceptions of how receipt of flexible funding designed to increase their housing stability may have also impacted their children’s safety, stress, mood and behavior.

Common Ground, Complementary Approaches: Adapting the Housing First Model for Domestic Violence Survivors

2017
Cris Sullivan
Linda Olsen

The Housing First model has been shown to be a highly effective approach to achieving permanent housing for chronically homeless individuals with serious mental illness and chemical dependency. There are numerous components of the model that lend themselves toward achieving similar goals for homeless domestic violence (DV) survivors and their children. A leading cause of homelessness for women, many of whom are mothers, is DV. This article describes the commonalities between the Housing First model and the tenets of DV victim advocacy work and explores how Housing First can be adapted to effectively achieve safe and stable housing for DV survivors and their children. Preliminary evidence for the adapted model – termed Domestic Violence Housing First – is provided, and policy implications are discussed.

Creating Safe Housing Options for Survivors: Learning From and Expanding Research

2017
Cris Sullivan

This research brief provides a brief overview of the current and expanding evidence behind best practices in helping domestic violence survivors obtain safe and stable housing. It begins with evidence for three common core components of this work: mobile advocacy, flexible funding, and attending to safety. It then provides evidence for how services should be provided: survivor-driven, trauma-informed, and voluntary.

From Organizational Culture to Survivor Outcomes: A Process And Outcome Evaluation Of The District Alliance For Safe Housing

2016
Nkiru Nnawulezi

The District Alliance for Safe Housing (DASH) is a large, community-based organization located in Washington, D.C. It aims to provide services that promote self-determination, autonomy and safety for all survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV), sexual assault, sex trafficking, same-sex IPV, and homelessness. DASH also engages in systems advocacy to increase survivors’ safe housing options throughout the housing continuum. DASH uses low-barrier, voluntary, trauma-informed approaches to service delivery in order to enact their core beliefs:integrity, sovereignty, empowerment, accountability, partnerships, compassion, and re-centering. In 2013, evaluators from Michigan State University’s Research Consortium on Gender Based Violence collaborated with DASH to implement a process and outcome evaluation of DASH's program model. This document summarizes their findings.

A Promising Approach to Prevent Homelessness for Domestic Violence Survivors

2016
Cris Sullivan
Heather Bomsta
Peg Hacskaylo

This presentation describes how flexible funds are employed in a DV housing program in Washington DC as a means to prevent homelessness for survivors. Further, it discusses the elements and results of a longitudinal pilot study that tested whether this project (DASH's Survivor Resiliency Fund) represents a promising strategy to prevent homelessness for survivors of intimate partner violence.

Establishing Domestic Violence Housing First in California: A Process Evaluation

2017
Cris Sullivan
Jennifer Strom
Stephanie Fluegeman

In 2016, 8 agencies in California piloted the Domestic Violence Housing First Model (DVHF), an initiative that focuses on helping survivors get into safe and stable housing as quickly as possible, and on providing services to help them move forward with their lives. This process evaluation documents what it takes for agencies to implement the DVHF model and provides preliminary evidence for its impact on the lives of survivors and their children.

TECHNICAL REPORT: Exploring Domestic Violence Survivors' Need for Transitional Housing

2018
Dessie Clark
Cris Sullivan
Leila Wood

One approach for DV survivors who require housing assistance and supportive services for a longer period of time is transitional housing (TH), which provides an apartment or rental unit, along with rental assistance and supportive services for up to two years, allowing survivors time to work on any barriers they face to securing permanent housing and to heal from the trauma they have experienced. Another approach for DV survivors is rapid re-housing (RRH), which allows DV survivors to locate their own apartment and to receive rental assistance and supportive services for a period of time.This study explored the ways in which DV survivors experienced a TH program that they were currently enrolled in, as well as their perceptions about whether RRH would have been a good fit for them given different durations of rental assistance and supportive services.

Out of Reach 2018: The High Cost of Housing

2018
National Low Income Housing Coalition

NLIHC’s annual report, Out of Reach, documents the gap between wages and the price of housing across the United States. The report’s Housing Wage is an estimate of the hourly wage that a full-time worker must earn to afford a modest and safe rental home without spending more than 30% of his or her income on rent and utility costs. The report indicates that housing costs are "out of reach" for both for the average renter and for millions of low-wage workers, seniors and people with disabilities living on fixed incomes, and other low-income households. In no county, even those where the minimum wage has been set above the federal level, can a minimum wage renter working a 40-hour work week afford a modest two-bedroom rental unit. 

Downtown Women's Needs Assessment

2016
Downtown Women's Action Coalition

The 2016 Downtown Womens' Needs Assessment is a community-based research project, and the sixth in a series of comprehensive surveys on the needs, characteristics, and conditions facing homeless and extremely low-income women living in downtown Los Angeles.

Domestic Violence and Homeless Services Coalition Focus Group Report: Survivor Solutions to Program and Systems Change

2018
LA County Domestic Violence and Homeless Services Coalition

In Los Angeles County, the number of women experiencing homelessness increased by a staggering 55% between 2013 and 2016. Research shows that domestic violence is a primary driver into homelessness for women and that gender-based violence is the most significant difference between men and women experiencing homelessness. The purpose of this report is to give voice to the opinions and perspectives of those with lived experience to guide client-centered systems change and develop coordinated community responses that meet the direct needs of this population.

Women Need Safe, Stable, Affordable Housing: A Study of Social, Private and Co-op Housing in Winnipeg

2004
Molly McCracken

This study looked at gender-specific issues related to housing programs in Winnipeg, Canada. Among other findings, safety was a key concern among women looking for housing. Researchers noted that many women have experienced domestic violence in their homes, and that women are more likely to stay in unsafe situations because of their inability to find other housing. Women in the study described having experienced sexual harassment from landlords, and reported that safety features such as lighting sensors and cameras in stairwells and elevators made them feel safer. The authors strongly recommend implementation of gender-based analysis in all housing policies and programs, and note that cooperative (shared) housing is greatly assistive to women with low incomes.

RESEARCH: Moving from Rhetoric to Reality: Adapting Housing First for Homeless Individuals with Mental Illness from Ethno-racial Groups

2012
Vicky Stergiopoulos

This research paper presents findings from an evaluation of a Housing First program for homeless individuals with mental illness in five cities across Canada. Conclusions from this research include that adapting Housing First with anti-racism/anti-oppression principles offers a promising approach to serving the diverse needs of homeless people from ethno-racial groups and strengthening the service systems developed to support them.

RESEARCH: Housing First Enhanced with Antiracism Practices Can Improve Housing Stability

2016
Vicky Stergiopoulos

Because of known differences in health care experiences and outcomes by race and ethnicity, researchers in Toronto tested the effectiveness of a Housing First program enhanced with antiracism and antioppression practices. The main principles of the antiracism and antioppression services delivered include empowerment, education, alliance building, language use, and advocacy. The study’s findings have key policy implications for Housing First interventions and suggest that Housing First enhanced with anti-racism and anti-oppression practices can improve housing stability and community functioning.