Data Points: Housing Stability and Domestic Violence Survivors

written by naehblog
October 29, 2013

Today's blog post on housing stability for survivors of domestic violence by the Alliance's research intern Thomas Friedlander concludes our blog series in honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Earlier this month, we examined the scope of the intersection between domestic violence and homelessness as well as took a look at predictors for survivors entering shelter.

For survivors of domestic violence, housing stability isn’t just important, it’s essential, especially when it comes to their health and livelihood.

That’s according to the findings of a 4-year study that looked at the impact of housing stability, and more specifically the impact of the “Housing First” model, on survivors of domestic violence. What this study found is that if you’re less secure in your housing situation, you’re more likely to experience depression, or even post-traumatic stress disorder. You’re also more likely to miss school or work, and you’re more likely to end up in the hospital.

This study, more commonly known as the SHARE project, was funded by the CDC and findings were published online in late October 2011. The study examined women served by the Home Free program in Portland, Oregon.

Let’s look at some risk factors for housing instability. These factors are based in the six months leading up to the study. They include:

  • Number of times moved
  • Ability to pay next month’s rent
  • Difficulty obtaining housing
  • Desirability of living conditions
  • Trouble with landlords or threat of eviction

With every additional risk factor for housing instability, the odds of being absent from work or school for any reason increased by 28 percent. Similarly, each additional risk factor increased the odds of hospitalization by 27 percent.

These factors stack on top of one another, meaning that if you have trouble with your landlord and are unsure if you’ll be able to pay rent, your likelihood of ending up in the hospital has just shot up 54 percent.

The study highlights a very real need for stronger and more widespread housing stability policies for survivors of domestic violence. Survivors who get the services they need show improved mental health. They’re also better equipped to address long-term goals.

The Home Free program seeks to eliminate sources of housing instability with a step-by-step process:

  1. Provide immediate housing and services for clients
  2. Cooperate with landlords to ensure long-term housing support, and provide short-term rental assistance
  3. Immediately begin housing searches while working directly with clients
  4. Set long-term goals such as employment and financial independence.

Domestic violence and homeless service agencies should focus on forming strong partnerships to ensure that survivors who seek either form of assistance have access to housing and the many services they need to successfully escape homelessness.

If you would like to learn more about the best practices for survivors of domestic violence, the Alliance has a collection of research and resources, including a toolkit on rapid re-housing for survivors and case studies of successful housing first programs, including Home Free in Portland, OR and DASH in Washington, DC.