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Home Options Beyond the Shelter

A shelter can provide a temporary escape—but, what next?

  • July 14, 2014
  • By domesticshelters.org
Home Options Beyond the Shelter

When domestic violence survivors escape a dangerous home situation, they often find safety at an emergency shelter. The time period in which survivors can stay in a shelter varies—sometimes they can stay for weeks, sometimes a few months. 

But where do they go after that?

Amy Borst, MFT, clinical director of  Laura’s House, a domestic violence shelter in Orange County, Calif., says they provide emergency shelter for up to 45 days. “From Day 3 in residence, case managers are working with clients to secure a more permanent housing situation.” This can be called transitional or alternative housing.

Transitional housing typically combines a housing option for up to 24 months with other services that will help the survivor develop stability in their life. For instance, says Borst, “Laura’s House has a transitional housing program that includes case management and supportive therapeutic services for six months to one year.” Ask your local domestic violence agency what options exist in your area.

Transitional housing might be a shelter, hotel or apartment, depending on what resources are available. Qualifications for transitional housing vary from state to state, but many of these programs require that survivors have a verifiable income, are willing to submit to a background check and demonstrate they are drug-free. They also must show they’re motivated to require in the supportive services offered, such as life skills classes and support groups. The idea is not to place rules and regulations on survivors, but help them permanently become self-sufficient and have a better, healthier life.

Alternative housing options may be another option available for survivors, depending on your state. Priority is sometimes given in public housing to domestic violence survivors. There may also be financial assistance available to purchase a home or applying for Habitat for Humanity can be applied for.

Unfortunately, survivors of domestic violence have encountered discrimination in the past when trying to find new housing. Luckily, there are also laws in place to protect them. The Violence Against Women Act of 2005 states that a person cannot be denied public housing because they are a victim of domestic violence. The federal Fair Housing Act forbids landlords and housing providers from discriminating against survivors, either by denying their housing application or evicting them.

Bottom line: Staying in an abusive situation is never the best option. Even if you don’t have a place to go, there are agencies, nonprofits and shelters that can and will help you. Start by contacting a domestic violence advocate in your area and ask about the resources available in your state. 

You should also consider asking yourself these five questions if all local shelters are full, in order to help you find your safest option.