New Housing Program Rules Could Hurt Domestic Violence Victims

Posted on: Friday, October 15, 2010

Keywords: Metro New York, domestic violence victims, domestic violence housing program, domestic violence victim advocates, Safe Horizon Nat Fields, Nat Fields

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In New York City, new and stricter work requirements for public housing residents causes domestic violence victim advocates to worry that the rules will force women to stay in abusive homes. Safe Horizon senior vice president Nat Fields weighs in on the topic in a Metro New York article.

It’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but social service providers who work victims worry a new city policy is going to hurt the cause.

The Bloomberg administration changed the rules of its housing subsidy program, rolling  out applications for Work Advantage to homeless and domestic violence shelter residents this month. Unlike its previous rental subsidies, the new program has a stricter work requirement — participants are only eligible if they’ve been working for a minimum of 30 days for 35 hours a week. The idea behind it is to promote self-sufficiency and hasten the transition from the shelter system into a community.

But providers at Safe Horizon, the nonprofit that operates the city’s 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline (800.621.HOPE), which receives more than 130,000 calls a year, worry the new rules might discourage women from leaving their homes.  Because of the job requirement, they might not want to risk the possibility of being homeless after a maximum shelter stay of 135 days.

Victims “face recent trauma from the violence, separation from their former social networks where childcare and networking might otherwise happen, and on average, 60 percent have no prior work experience and 50 percent less than a high school education,” said Nathaniel Fields, Senior Vice President for Safe Horizon’s domestic violence shelter programs and hotlines.  “Finding the right job and childcare first and the right apartment is hard enough for someone who doesn't have these added obstacles.”

The previous subsidy program gave domestic violence victims a waiver so they had six months after leaving the shelter to find employment, Fields said.  

“She could then use her short stay in emergency domestic violence shelter to stabilize her family by participating in the trauma-focused services the shelter offers and locate safe permanent housing first before securing employment, childcare and other needed community resources to remain employed,” he explained.

But a spokeswoman from the Human Resources Administration said, “The newly implemented Work Advantage program is based on the notion that employment is an important component of domestic violence survivors’ long term safety and security.” She added that the city will be monitoring the program to “determine if adjustments need to be made.”

by Amy Zimmer
"Housing Program May Hurt Domestic Violence Victims, Advocates Worry"
10/15/10, Metro New York Online
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