If you serve people who are survivors of Intimate Partner Violence you and your client are continuously looking, perhaps desperately, for affordable housing. As I have written in previous blogs survivors often have to choose between their home with their abuser or homelessness.
Many communities have done a great job in building emergency shelters for people fleeing violence. But that is all they are – a temporary respite. Government funding and excessive need both conspire to limit residency to 90 days or less. How many people can create a new life in 90 days or less?
So how do you address the financial part of helping your client move from the abusive home for good? Your clients need housing in which rents are based on income. This where they have time to recover; the parent can rebuild their independence and their children can experience stability. A new definition of homelessness from HUD can help your client leap frog over others into housing.
For years homeless service providers have tried to sort through conflicting definitions of homelessness. While the law said one thing the regulations said another thing. The question: whether a person who is “precariously housed” qualified for housing restricted to the homeless. What does that mean? People on the verge of becoming literally homeless, but have at least one more night in a residence.
Now, with firm guidance under the HEARTH Act, there is no cause for confusion. Your client can qualify for the largest HUD funded homeless programs only if s/he is literally on the street or in a shelter. Housing funded through HUD’s Shelter Plus Care and Supportive Housing Programs is restricted to this definition.
This has thrown housing providers’ waiting lists into disarray. No matter how long a person has been on a list if they are sleeping on a friend’s sofa when their name comes to the top they are not homeless. If they must leave their apartment due to eviction they are not homeless.
Your shelter clients do meet HUD’s definition and will count as homeless. There are other eligibility guidelines they must meet – but actual homelessness is a big one.
This means contact your local city or community development office to identify housing providers using Shelter Plus Care or Supportive Housing Program funds. Better yet, find the contact for your local Continuum of Care using the following directory. Ask where your shelter clients go to sign up. And go quickly – there’s still no time to lose.
To learn about the Continuum of Care, other housing strategies and HUD updates follow my blog at www.maryellenhess.com.