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Domestic violence survivors face many challenges when it comes to living a life free from violence. Two of the most daunting and overwhelming are the need for safe housing and the economic resources to maintain safe housing (Clough, A., Draughon, J. E., Njie-Carr, V., Rollins, C., & Glass, N., 2014). Research has shown that intimate partner violence is frequently associated with poverty, unemployment, housing instability, and homelessness (Pavao, Alvarex, Baumrind, Induni, & Kimerling, 2007). For example, in a study of 3,400 shelter residents in domestic violence programs across eight states, 84% of participants reported that they needed help with finding affordable housing. In that same study, survivors reported that if a domestic violence shelter was not available to them, the consequences would be dire: homelessness, serious losses including their children, actions taken in desperation, or continued abuse or death (Lyon, E., Lane, S., & Menard, A., 2008). For domestic or intimate partner violence victims and survivors, “Having housing made everything else possible”(Clough, A., Draughon, J. E., Njie-Carr, V., Rollins, C., & Glass, N., 2014).
The threat of homelessness can keep victims in abusive relationships. In a series of state studies, 44% to 46% of homeless women said that they had stayed in an abusive relationship because they were not sure where they could go (American Civil Liberties Union, 2004). Among MSCFV clients, about 5% specifically say they returned to their abuser partner in the past because they had no place to go. One out of four victims exiting MSCFV’s emergency shelter are going to stay with family or friends, living situations that are often unstable. A review of MSCFV non-shelter intakes suggests that affordable, stable housing is a need for a significant number of clients. Half have no income of their own or make less than $1,000 per month. Forty-six percent list housing as a barrier towards self-sufficiency and independence.
The challenge of securing safe and affordable housing is even greater in the Maryland Mid-Shore Counties served by MSCFV. In these counties (Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot), private market housing costs have continued to remain high, and low income or income based housing have waiting lists up to years long. MSCFV’s experience has shown that without substantial financial assistance, survivors of domestic violence are forced into housing situations that are detrimental to their well-being and the well-being of their children. A survivor is faced with choosing between living in a house which is unsafe because this is all they can afford with limited housing assistance, living in a crisis shelter for an extended period of time or returning to her abusive relationship. Immigrant survivors face additional obstacles that further limit their housing options due to the fact that they are not eligible for any housing assistance.
From initial contact until the victim leaves the program, MSCFV case managers work with each client to create and implement client-centered, holistic service plans that include: