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16 Things You May Not Know About Housing for Survivors

November 24, 2017

Every year, the international community stands together to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls through 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. This campaign spans the sixteen days from November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, to December 10, Human Rights Day. To recognize 16 Days this year, the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) is sharing “16 Things You May Not Know About Housing for Survivors.” Read on and learn more:

1. Housing is Safety.

Survivors of domestic violence often must flee their homes to escape life-threatening violence. Securing safe, affordable housing is a crucial step on the pathway to a survivor’s long-term security.

2. Domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women and children.

Between 22 and 57 percent of homelessness among women is caused by domestic violence. More than 90 percent of homeless women experience severe physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives, and 63 percent have been victims of intimate partner violence [1].

3. In just one day, more than 41,000 adults and children fleeing domestic violence found refuge in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program [2].

Emergency shelters are often the first step for survivors fleeing abuse. “Because of this shelter, I am not a victim. I am a survivor,” shared one survivor in North Carolina.

4. Thirty-eight percent of victims receiving housing services at local domestic violence programs are children [2].

Advocates work with victims at local programs to secure safe housing, and it means the world to survivors and their children. An advocate in Alabama shared, “I noticed a little boy at the shelter wasn’t acting himself. I asked him if everything was OK and he replied, ‘No.’ He told me that he was scared that one day he would have to go back to the home his family had fled. I assured him that when it was time for his family to leave, we would make sure that his new home is safe. He looked at me and said, ‘Like this one?’ with a huge smile on his face. I replied, ‘Yes, just like this one.’ He gave me a hug. The family’s housing voucher was approved that day.”

5. Emergency shelters are a lifeline for many survivors.

A multi-state study funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) indicated that if emergency domestic violence shelters did not exist the consequences for victims would be dire, including: homelessness, losing custody of children, continued abuse, or death [3].

6. Eighty-seven percent of domestic violence programs provide housing advocacy to survivors throughout the year [2].

Survivors of domestic violence have unique safety, confidentiality, and trauma-related needs that must be addressed through survivor-centered housing. The services offered by domestic violence-specific housing programs vary and may include short- and long-term housing, rental assistance services, and support services that work to meet survivors’ individual needs. “The transitional housing program provided clients with a sense of community, empowerment, and the ability to create a support system,” shared one advocate from Michigan.

7. Housing remains a critical unmet need for survivors.

Eighty-four percent of survivors in domestic violence shelters reported that they needed help finding affordable housing [3]. On a single day, out of 11,991 unmet requests for domestic violence services, 66 percent were for housing and shelter [2]. In a nationwide study, more than half (51.5%) of the victims who identified a need for housing services did not receive them [4].

8. Local domestic violence programs provide more than just emergency shelter.

Ninety percent of victims of domestic violence reported knowing more ways to plan for safety after receiving services from a local domestic violence program [3]. Planning for safety is an important step to ensuring long-term security.

9. Transitional housing provides supportive housing to survivors for six to 24 months. 

Transitional housing programs help survivors and their families rebuild their lives after fleeing abuse. Without these safe, affordable programs, survivors may be forced to return to their abuser or face homelessness. NNEDV’s Transitional Housing team trains the nation’s transitional housing providers to ensure that their services are survivor-centered, trauma-informed, and effective.

10. Congress can respond more effectively to the housing needs of survivors.

NNEDV works with Congress to create legislation and new funding streams to improve the federal response to homeless survivors, including: the Helping End Abusive Living Situations (HEALS) Act, which would direct the federal government to invest in domestic violence housing programs [5].

11. Housing insecurity can exacerbate survivors’ vulnerability.

Women and men who experienced food or housing insecurity in a 12-month period had a significantly higher prevalence of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in that same time period, as compared to those who did not experience food or housing insecurity [4].

12. Financial abuse impacts survivors’ access to affordable housing.

Domestic abusers commonly sabotage a victim’s economic stability, making victims more vulnerable to homelessness.  Many survivors of domestic violence have trouble finding rental properties because they may have damaged credit, rental, and employment histories as a result of the abuse [6]. NNEDV’s Economic Justice team works to empower survivors to overcome financial abuse and secure housing and economic stability.

13. Survivors often face discrimination that results in eviction or denial of housing based on the violent and criminal actions of the perpetrator.

In 2005, NNEDV and partners worked with Congress to create landmark protections for survivors in federally-subsidized housing in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). We worked to strengthen these protections and create additional options for victims who need to escape violence in VAWA 2013.

14. Survivors’ housing needs are compounded by a nationwide lack of affordable, safe housing.

Only one in four individuals who are eligible for it receive public housing. The number of low-income households who receive housing assistance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs is far fewer than those who need it [7].

15. NNEDV’s member state and territory domestic violence coalitions work on state and territory laws and local policies to ensure that survivors of domestic violence can access safe housing.

From requirements for landlords to change the locks and complete repairs to early lease termination to prohibiting discrimination, state and territory housing laws and policies can help survivors secure and maintain safe, affordable housing.

16. NNEDV is a national leader working to increase safe, affordable housing for survivors.

Across intersecting teams and via a multi-pronged approach, NNEDV works to eliminate barriers to housing for survivors through targeted federal policy advocacy and systems advocacy. We partner with national organizations on the Domestic Violence and Housing Technical Assistance Consortium, which works to build the capacity of coalitions and local programs to improve policies to address the needs of survivors. We train local communities and nonprofit housing providers on best practices to connect survivors to safe, confidential, and affordable housing. We leverage our voice to join our partners in the fight for more affordable housing. Housing is central to our advocacy because we believe that housing is safety. We are working toward making the statement “Every home a safe home” a reality.


[1] Domestic Violence, Housing, and Homelessness:

[2] National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), “11th Annual Domestic Violence Counts Census,”

[3] Lyon, E., & Lane, S. 2009. Meeting survivors’ needs: A multi-state study of domestic violence shelter experiences. Harrisburg, PA: National Resource Center on Domestic Violence. Retrieved from

[4] National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): ;

[5] NNEDV, Housing Legislation Will Help More Victims Find Safe Housing Options:

[6] Susan A. Reif and Lisa J. Krisher. 2000. “Subsidized Housing and the Unique Needs of Domestic Violence Victim.” Clearing House Review.  National Center on Poverty Law. Chicago, IL.

[7] National Low Income Housing Coalition 2017 Public Policy Agenda