Domestic violence is a prevalent problem that deeply affects families, children and communities. Housing accessibility is a growing concern across the state. When these two issues meet, it can be difficult to navigate the intricacies of both systems. Especially for survivors of domestic violence, inaccessibility to housing can be a disaster, leading to a multitude of other problems that can stem from not having a home.
While domestic violence certainly shows up in obvious ways (physical, verbal, sexual and mental abuse), there are other ways that domestic violence shows up that can contribute to the difficulty of finding housing (financial control, social isolation and monitoring). It is nearly impossible for people who experience domestic violence, have little access to funds and must find a place in a short amount of time to secure safe housing in the current housing market.
There are a couple of common and widespread contributing factors to why those who experience domestic abuse may not have stable housing. First, when someone is the victim of financial control and coercion, it can be difficult to be financially stable. These scenarios can play out through the abuser taking out credit cards in the survivor’s name, forcing the survivor to take out loans in their name, tricking the survivor to relinquish property rights or obtaining credit through fraud or duress. Once these debts accumulate, even if the survivor has left the relationship, the debt remains. Property management companies and landlords rely on “good” credit in order to allow someone to lease from them, regardless of the circumstances.
Second, it can be incredibly difficult for survivors to have stable employment due to the abusive relationship. Reasons for this can include continuing to experience harassment or stalking even after they’ve left the relationship; accumulating absences from work due to needing medical treatment or attending court hearings; and being chronically absent or late because of the relationship.
Tying both factors together with the process, availability and accessibility to housing create additional barriers for survivors to secure stable housing. Landlords often require large deposits for housing, some as large as first and last month’s rent, an unrealistic amount for some people. Previous evictions can automatically bar a person from accessing housing. If a survivor has broken a lease or not been able to pay rent, this can be problematic for finding future housing. In an increasingly fast-paced and expensive market, survivors have limited options for safe and stable housing.
This is a big problem, not just for the individuals, but for their families and communities. We need a fair and equitable housing market that serves everyone’s needs, not just simply for the lucky and privileged few.
Moné Miller is the legal advocate at the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. Prior to the Idaho Coalition, Moné was the advocacy coordinator at the Center for Work Education and Employment in Denver.
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