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.

Out of Reach 2018: The High Cost of Housing

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. 

2017 Advocates' Guide

National Low Income Housing Coalition

An educational primer on federal programs and resources related to affordable housing and community development. Includes chapters on the National Housing Trust Fund, special housing issues (including housing needs of survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking), and information on tools and types of housing programs.

2013 Advocates' Guide to Housing and Community Development Policy

National Low Income Housing Coalition

The National Low Income Housing Coalition publishes this guide in order to educate advocates of all kinds about the programs and policies that make housing affordable to low income people. The Guide includes an orientation to affordable housing and community development programs, explains how affordable housing works and why it is needed, and provides vital information to guide organizations and individuals in their advocacy efforts. Also includes information about the core affordable housing programs and policies that make housing and community development programs work on the ground.

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

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.

National Survey of Advocates on Sexual Violence, Housing & Violence Against Women Act

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

This survey was designed and conducted to better understand the specific barriers and needs of sexual violence victims and survivors within public and Section 8 housing programs. These survey findings contribute to the growing body of research on sexual violence and housing intersections and can be used to help inform public policy, prevention, and intervention strategies.

Housing and Sexual Violence: Overview of National Survey: January 2010

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

In 2008, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center partnered with the Victim Rights Law Center, National Sexual Assault Coalition Resource Sharing Project, Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault, University of New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania Community Legal Services to develop and conduct a national survey on housing and sexual violence. Goals of this project were to further the understanding of the intersections between sexual violence, housing, and homelessness; help to identify the needs of victims and advocates around housing issues; and help to inform policy and programmatic strategies. This report summarizes key findings.

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

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.

Best Practice Guideline for Ending Women’s and Girl’s Homelessness

Amy Van Berkum
Abe Oudshoorn

This report synthesizes existing literature on the gendered experience of homelessness in an effort to develop best practices for ending women’s and girl’s homelessness, including the applicability of Housing First and Trauma Informed Care approaches. The authors present an overview of commonalities noted amongst several particular populations of women experiencing homelessness. Particular populations are then examined in relation to their pathways into homelessness, barriers in exiting homelessness, housing preferences and suggestions, service preferences and suggestions, and research and recommendations for the future.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth: An Epidemic of Homelessness

Nicholas Ray
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Between 3 percent and 5 percent of the U.S. population identifies as lesbian, gay or bisexual, yet research suggests that between 20 percent and 40 percent of all homeless youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). This reality prompted the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (the Task Force), in collaboration with the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH), to produce this publication. Through a comprehensive review of the available academic research and professional literature, the question as to why so many LGBT youth are becoming and remaining homeless is addressed. This paper also reports on the harassment and violence that many of these youth experience in the shelter system and summarizes research on critical problems affecting them, including mental health issues, substance abuse and risky sexual behavior. The federal government’s response to youth homelessness is analyzed, including the specific impact on LGBT homeless youth of increased federal funding for faith-based service providers. Five social service agencies detail model programs designed to improve service delivery to LGBT homeless youth.

Early Childhood Homelessness in the United States: 50-State Profile

Office of Early Childhood Development
Administration for Children and Families
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

This 50-state profile project plus the District of Columbia, excluding territories, migrant and tribal information provides a snapshot of early childhood data available for children who are experiencing homelessness in each state. The Office of Early Childhood Development hopes these profiles will provide information for local, statewide and federal conversations and planning toward the goal of ending family homelessness by 2020.

Access to Early Childhood Development Services for Homeless Families with Young Children: An Exploratory Project

Tanya de Sousa

This policy brief summarizes selected literature on homeless families with children who are less than five years old, and incorporates findings from a project prepared for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Administration for Children and Families (ACF) on the challenges facing families with young children who are temporarily staying with others or in motels/hotels. The aim of this policy brief is to examine the following questions from the project: (1) What are families’ current living arrangements, and do they have alternative plans for shelter if they cannot stay at their current temporary location and are unable to receive the services of a shelter? (2) What conditions are homeless families and children exposed to when they cannot or do not access the services of a shelter? (3) To what extent are families knowledgeable about the federally sponsored early childhood support services available to them?

Downtown Women's Needs Assessment

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.

Racism and Homelessness

Center for Social Innovation

In part 1 of this podcast, Jeff Olivet and Marc Dones from the Center 4 Social Innovation tackle the complexities and paradoxes of race as it relates to homelessness.

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

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.