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Connecting Domestic Violence Survivors to Housing Critical to Ending the Cycle of Violence

By:  Mary-Margaret Sweeney, Domestic Violence Network Training Services Manager

In 2017, DVN launched Intersections, a three-year community-wide plan to end domestic violence in central Indiana. The plan pinpoints a different risk factor every six months and initiates community conversations, educational opportunities and partnerships between experts and service providers. The hope is that by facilitating collaboration, specific goals and outcomes can be identified that will lead to the community being better equipped to prevent and respond to domestic violence. The intersection of housing and domestic violence was explored Wednesday, March 22nd in a joint event with DVN, Indianapolis Housing Authority (IHA), and other local community service providers.

The need for safe housing and the economic resources to maintain safe housing are two of the most pressing concerns among abused women. Studies show that 16% of all people experiencing homelessness are victims of domestic violence. 50% of homeless women cite domestic violence as the direct cause of their homelessness Another study found that among mothers experiencing homelessness with children, a shocking 80% had experienced domestic violence.

Those in attendance at Wednesday’s training came from diverse settings, representing mental health, housing, public health, and, of course, domestic violence. To give those in other fields a better understanding of domestic violence, Mary Alice Navarro and Nathan Ferreira, both from The Julian Center, shared their work and research. Navarro who is Director of Law Enforcement and Sexual Assault Services, gave an overview of what domestic violence is, who it impacts, and the services victims require. “DV and Housing issues often go hand in hand,” said Navarro. “Victims already face many barriers when trying to leave an unsafe relationship. But when the victim is dependent on their abuser, would they rather run the risk of being ‘homeless’ or stay in a situation where they have shelter no matter how unsafe?” Ferreira, Director of Residential Services, helped the crowd understand the mandates of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD). While Navarro works directly with victims and gave voice to their experiences, Ferreira’s work and his presentation focused on the macro, policy-level issues.

“Connecting survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault to safe, affordable housing is critical to ending the cycle of violence.  Today we trained case managers and housing managers from the Indianapolis Housing Agency  to help them understand domestic violence and create organizational practices that protect survivors.”

After the training, attendees were invited to take part in a “speed networking” activity, where they made their way around a room of 11 local service providers to learn more about the resources they offered. One participant graciously stepped aside during this time to answer a few questions for me. When asked what they gleaned from this training, they said, “I knew domestic violence happened but if that’s not your main focus, you don’t really understand all of the areas of life that are impacted. That blew me away.” I asked if housing and domestic violence were a part of his everyday work. “Housing is,” he said. “And I came away understanding what some people might go through before working with IHA. That’s valuable.”

Follow our Community Wide Plan, Intersections, for future trainings and events!