Battered Into Homelessness

Also published on The Huffington Post.

Domestic violence perpetrated upon women is a leading cause of homelessness for women and their children.  In fact, the National Network to End Domestic Violence in its current online article, “Housing: Issue Overview”, states “the interrelated nature of domestic violence and homelessness is undeniable.”

Please play the following video of legendary artist Edward D. Miracle’s stunning sculpture entitled, “Battered Woman Syndrome,” E.D. Miracle © 2008, all rights reserved.

In the NCH Fact Sheet #7, published in 2008, the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) described the circumstances, which I list numerically below, that lead many battered women and their children into homelessness:

    1. When a woman leaves an abusive relationship, she often has nowhere to go.  This is particularly true of women with few resources.
  • Lack of affordable housing and long waiting lists for assisted housing mean that many women and their children are forced to choose between abuse at home or life on the streets.
  • Moreover, shelters are frequently filled to capacity and must turn away battered women and their children.  An estimate 29% of requests for shelter by homeless families were denied in 2006 due to lack of resources (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2006).

In “Housing: Issue Overview,” the NNEDV describes the all-to-common scenario facing battered women who seek to leave their abusers:

Victims of domestic violence struggle to find permanent housing after fleeing abusive relationships.  Many have left in the middle of the night with nothing but the clothes on their backs, and now must entirely rebuild their lives. As long-term housing options become scarcer, battered women are staying longer in emergency domestic violence shelters.  As a result, shelters are frequently full and must turn families away.

The NCH Fact Sheet #7 sets forth the relationship between domestic violence and homelessness as found in state and local studies:

    • In Minnesota, one in every three homeless women was homeless due to domestic violence in 2003.  46% of homeless women said that they had previously stayed in abusive relationships because they had nowhere else to go. (American Civil Liberties Union, 2004)
  • In Missouri, 27% of the sheltered homeless population are victims of domestic violence. (American Civil Liberties Union, 2004)
  • In San Diego, a survey done by San Diego’s Regional Task Force on the Homeless found that 50% of homeless women are domestic violence victims. (American Civil Liberties Union, 2004)
  • A recent study in Massachusetts reports that 92% of homeless women had experienced severe physical or sexual assault at some point in their life.  63% were victims of violence by an intimate partner.  (NAEH Fact Checker, 2007)

Within the “2008 Hunger and Homelessness Survey” released by U.S. Conference of Mayors, twenty-two of the twenty-five cities participating in the study “reported that, on average, 15% of homeless persons were victims of domestic violence.”  The City of Trenton, New Jersey reported that 65% of people experiencing homelessness there were domestic violence victims, the highest percentage of any city reporting in this study (Appendix G-2).

I have to agree with the NNEDV’s conclusion in its “Housing: Issue Overview” that it “is not because homeless women are more likely to be victims of domestic violence, rather experiencing domestic violence or sexual assault often forces women and children into homelessness.”


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