Learning the Intersections: Homelessness and Domestic Violence

By Cesiah Guerra

Homelessness is a devastating epidemic of great proportions within the United States.  What has led people to become homeless in such a rich nation? What circumstances in life did they have to face where their options were limited?

On any given night, there are over 600,000 homeless people in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. About 1/3 of the 600,000 are living in cars or under bridges. Over 138,000 of the homeless are children under the age of 18.

The top causes of homelessness among families are:

  • Lack of affordable housing
  • Unemployment
  • Poverty
  • Low wages

But for women in particular, domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness. Domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness among families nationwide, according to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Women that become homeless due to domestic violence often have to face struggles that other homeless people may not have to face.

More than 90% of homeless women are victims of severe physical or sexual abuse. Escaping that abuse is a leading cause of their homelessness. Escaping abusive relationships at times means leaving the only home they have. Unable to find shelter with family and friends often pushes them to live a life of homelessness.

Many people ask, “Why doesn’t she just leave her abuser?” But where would she go? Often my sisters, victims of domestic violence, choose to stay with their abusers because there isn’t money accessible for her in order to leave; they also don’t have a support network that will pull them forward to safety and new beginnings.

When a victim of domestic violence makes the decision to leave an abusive relationship, she often has nowhere to go. Lack of affordable housing and long housing lists mean that many women and their children are forced to choose between abuse or being homeless.  

The most important need of a survivor after leaving domestic violence is safety. Some survivors may be able to stay in their home with some additional financial support through rental assistance and a support network. But for those who can’t stay in their homes safely, they may need a stay in an emergency shelter or traditional housing program before they can enter their own independent housing.

Having an affordable place to call home is crucial for survivors to both reduce the risk of homelessness as well as possible future violence.

The mission to stop homelessness for victims of domestic violence seems monumental but together as we break the silence of domestic violence, we can make an impact in our communities and help survivors find a safe place to call home with new beginnings for them and their children.

Below are a couple organizations that can guide a survivor of domestic violence to safety and shelters.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline

1-800-799-SAFE

www.ndvh.org

National Coalition for the Homeless

1-202-737-6444

www.nationalhomeless.org

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