Domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness for women and children, and it is estimated that 16% of homeless people are survivors of domestic violence. Among mothers with children experiencing homelessness, more than 80% had previously experienced domestic violence. 63% of homeless women have previously experienced domestic violence. Domestic violence survivors are the largest subpopulation of people experiencing homelessness in Washington State.
Survivors are sometimes forced to choose between the dangers of staying in an abusive relationship, the dangers of homelessness, or the dangers of moving to substandard housing. Those who aren’t working, don’t have access to household income, have been living in poverty, and/or been isolated from family support are in the greatest danger of becoming homeless if they flee abuse. Due to discrimination and higher incidences of poverty, survivors of color and immigrants are likelier than others to become homeless after leaving an abusive partner.
It is illegal to evict someone or deny them housing because they are a survivor of domestic violence. Survivors who are in danger and need to break their lease can do so legally with appropriate documentation.
Some survivors fleeing an abusive relationship need confidential shelter due to stalking or lack of other options. Others can make a planned exit to new housing using their own income or with financial assistance. For some survivors, they can stay in their current homes after their abusive partner has left, although they may need short-term assistance for rent or other needs until their finances stabilize. Relocating to live with family or friends, either with or without financial assistance, is another option for survivors.
In any of these circumstances, stable housing enhances survivors’ healing and increases their safety and well-being. Stable housing enables survivors to connect with their support systems or form new ones, setting down roots for themselves and their children. Above all, stable housing enables survivors to exercise self-determination and build new lives.
New Beginnings can help survivors learn about their housing rights, connect with shelter and other housing options, and access short term financial assistance to help with housing stability. Call our 24-hour Helpline for more information.