A study from 2013 found that safe and affordable housing was one of the most pressing concerns for people seeking to escape an abusive relationship. As October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it’s especially important to understand the intersection of domestic violence and homelessness and how we can support victims and their families.
Though domestic violence affects every race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender, some populations are more affected by domestic violence than others. Black women are nearly 35% more likely to experience domestic violence than white women and Native American women are nearly 50% more likely to experience domestic violence than women of other races. Low-income households are also more likely to be affected by domestic violence. These populations are more likely to have difficulty finding stable housing and experience homelessness.
For many people and their children who become homeless, an instance of domestic violence can often be the direct cause of homelessness as victims seek refuge away from their abuser above all else. Around 38% of victims of domestic abuse experience homelessness at some point in their lives and a survey of 25 cities found that 28% of mayors cited domestic violence as a leading cause of homelessness among families with children. 92% of mothers experiencing homelessness experienced severe physical violence or sexual violence at some point in their lives.
The cycle of domestic violence and homelessness can begin when victims are children themselves. Studies have shown that children who grow up in households with domestic violence are more likely to be affected by domestic violence in their own relationships.
Nearly 25% of women experience childhood sexual abuse in the United States, either in their own homes or by a trusted adult. The rate of child abuse and serious neglect in households with domestic violence is 1,500% higher than the national average. The trauma these women experience from witnessing domestic violence and experiencing sexual abuse as a child can have a dramatic impact on their mental health. When sampling a group of mentally ill women experiencing homelessness, a study found that childhood abuse was much more prevalent than in the general population. The same women were also more likely to experience homelessness during childhood.
At The People Concern, addressing the intersection of domestic violence and homelessness is a part of our everyday work. In addition to our extensive Homeless Services, the Sojourn Domestic Violence Program uses a combination of shelter, support groups, children’s empowerment programming, legal assistance, clinical therapy, a 24-hour emergency hotline and service referrals to support domestic violence victims and their children. The People Concern strives to end homelessness and domestic violence by providing care and support for those experiencing it, through housing and integrated services tailored to the unique needs of each individual. Last Year over 1,500 victims were served by the Sojourn program, while 92% of those who were placed in permanent housing by The People Concern’s homeless services program never experienced homelessness again. Domestic violence and homelessness are two traumatic experiences that often intersect. As Domestic Violence Month continues, it’s important to understand this intersection and support domestic violence victims and those experiencing homelessness every day.