Data Points: Survivors and Shelter

written by Sam Batko
October 22, 2013

Today, in recognition of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we are continuing our research blog series on the link between domestic violence and homelessness. Last week, we examined the scope of domestic violence, specifically the number of survivors seeking housing assistance and being turned away because of lack of capacity. Today, I’m going to turn my attention to the characteristics of survivors who seek out shelter as opposed to those who do not.

Findings from a study done as part of a larger randomized control trial of 113 women, half of whom sought shelter and half of whom had not, found that:

  • Women who accessed shelter had significantly lower incomes than women who do not access shelter;
  • Women accessing shelter experienced greater housing instability than those women who did not seek shelter—moving an average of nearly once every year prior to shelter entry compared to closer to once every two years among women who did not access shelter); and
  • Women accessing shelter were more likely to be unemployed than those who do not access shelter.

The study did not find significant differences in the number of acts of violence between the two groups, but did find that those who entered shelter reported more acts of sexual assault by their partner than those who did not access shelter and that women entering shelter had significantly higher rates of traumatic and depressive symptoms.

The implications of these findings are that women entering domestic violence shelters probably have a lot of the same housing and income issues that non-survivors entering the homelessness assistance system have. Partnerships between domestic violence service agencies and housing and homelessness agencies become critical when examining the housing needs of survivors.

Additionally, while domestic violence agencies may be more attuned and trained to respond to the trauma and mental health of survivors, homeless service agencies should be attentive to the possible mental health needs of survivors who enter their programs. Cross-training and close partnerships with domestic violence agencies would greatly benefit consumers in both program types.

Next week, we’ll tackle helping survivors exit homelessness and access permanent housing. Stay tuned!