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Five Facts About Domestic & Sexual Violence and Homelessness

Prevalence of housing insecurity and domestic violence

38 percent of all domestic violence victims become homeless at some point in their lifetime. In addition, more than 90 percent of homeless women have experienced severe physical or sexual abuse at some point in their lives. Survivors can experience obstacles both in looking for housing and maintaining safe housing. These obstacles are often amplified depending on a survivor’s race, immigration status, or English language proficiency.

 Impact of domestic violence on housing for families

Domestic violence can have a pervasive effect on the housing stability not just of survivors, but on their children and families as well. Domestic violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness for children in the United States, with one quarter of homeless children having witnessed violence. According to a 2013 study, 70 percent of mothers in families experiencing homelessness reported being physically assaulted by a family member or someone they knew.

Lack of resources for individuals needing housing assistance

Often, survivors who require assistance with housing encounter long wait times, lack of openings, scarcity of affordable housing options, and administrative delays. For example, in one day in 2022, 1642 domestic violence programs were unable to meet over 6748 requests made for housing services. On average, it takes a homeless family 6 to 10 months to secure housing.

How domesticviolence can contribute to homelessness

Domestic violence survivors can face significant barriers when looking for stable housing, and in maintaining safe housing. Abusers may affect survivors’ economic stability by making them economically dependent. Survivors may also be unemployed, have poor credit, or poor rental history due to domestic violence. These economic barriers can make finding stable housing nearly impossible for many survivors.

Federal programs for low-income individuals

There are federal programs that provide affordable housing for low-income individuals that prohibit discrimination on the basis of being a victim of domestic violence through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). These programs include Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, Project-based Section 8, and Low-Income Housing Tax Credit programs, and other public housing. 

The ABA Commission on Domestic Sexual Violence's publication A Lawyer's Handbook: Volume 2, The Impact of Domestic Violence on Your Legal Practice, 3rd Edition, has a chapter on Homelessness, Housing, and Domestic Violence. You can learn more about the Impact Book here. The Impact Book is available at no cost for OVW grantees.

As a reminder, the ABA Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence is available to support you in your representation of survivors. Click here to request training and technical assistance.