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Domestic Violence Shelter Providers Demand Equality for Single Adults Seeking Safety in New York State Domestic Violence Shelters with the Securing Access to Fair & Equal (SAFE) Shelter Act 

 

Safe Horizon, Urban Resource Institute, Volunteers of America-Greater New York, Senator Andrew Gounardes and Assembly Member Andrew Hevesi urge legislators to prioritize life-saving temporary housing for thousands of survivors of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and human trafficking. 

 

NEW YORK, NY (June 3, 2024) — Today, survivors and staff from New York City domestic violence shelter providers —Safe Horizon, Urban Resource Institute, Volunteers of America-Greater New York—urge the New York State Legislature to help ensure broader access for single adult domestic violence survivors in obtaining rooms in emergency domestic violence shelters by passing the Securing Access to Fair & Equal (SAFE) Shelter Act into law. The law would allow thousands of survivors of domestic violence, as well as sexual abuse and human trafficking, to obtain safe temporary housing in domestic violence shelters in order to escape from the person causing them harm, while assuring funding for providers is kept intact for those who “downsize” a room configured for a family of two to accommodate a single adult individual.

 

The challenge domestic violence shelter providers currently face across the state is that the emergency domestic violence shelter system is configured for families. Most rooms are designed to hold a family of two, three, or more. Providers are financially penalized when they offer rooms designed to house more than two people to single adults.Survivors of domestic violence without children are often informed when seeking placement that emergency shelter options for them are extremely limited. These limitations often force survivors to stay in a dangerous situation, into the homeless shelter system, which is not designed to meet their needs, or onto the streets.

 

Members of the LGBTQ+ community, trafficking survivors and older adult survivors are disproportionately impacted by this inequity as they often are single when they request shelter. o, are also significantly negatively impacted by this differential. The obstacles of room size for single adults and the risk of funding penalties for providers spurs the critical need for the SAFE Shelter Act, which is being sponsored by State Senator Andrew Gounardes and Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi, to put an end to inequality for domestic violence survivors without children and give them the same right to safe shelter that they deserve.

 

Safe Horizon, the nation’s largest victim services agency, which serves over 250,000 New Yorkers annually, receives roughly 90,000 domestic violence hotline calls per year and 40,000 domestic violence shelter requests annually on its 24-hour hotline. Each year, the largest population of individuals seeking domestic violence shelter is single adults with no children, and that number has increased year over year.In 2023, about 50% of hotline callers seeking shelter placement were single adults with no children. Only 18% were placed, compared to 26% of hotline callers who were families of two (typically a mother and one child), and who had a 72% placement rate. 

 

“It is our commitment at Safe Horizon to serve domestic violence survivors in their most critical time of need and assure them a safe place is waiting for them when fleeing abuse and violence. It is an injustice for single adult survivors to have limited access to life-saving domestic violence shelters due to government stipulations that do not take into account the danger these survivors face. We call on our legislators to recognize domestic violence and other forms of abuse do not discriminate between single adults or those with families. We urge you to grant domestic violence shelter providers the right to fully support single adult survivors with equal access to shelter, greater flexibility to increase capacity, and the continuous ability to extend critical resources to protect survivors,” said Kelly Coyne, Chief Program Officer, Safe Horizon. 

 

“When a survivor is ready to seek safety, there should be a safe and stable place for them to go. But the shortage of rooms for single survivors and the lack of regulatory flexibility has created a crisis situation for those we serve,” said Dr. Amanda Eckhardt, Chief Program Officer, Urban Resource Institute. “At Urban Resource Institute, we are committed to providing safe housing for all survivors of domestic violence impacted by housing insecurity and should not be forced as a sector of nonprofits to risk financial ruin to do so. The SAFE Shelter Act will help survivors, particularly LGBTQIA+ folks who disproportionately lack access to the safety of shelter. This small regulatory change, which will cost the state little, will have a profound impact on individuals that we care deeply for in our community.”

 

“At Restore we believe in a Housing First philosophy and emphasize the need for safe and stable housing as the foundation for any other form of support we provide. The truth is not all survivors have children with them while being trafficked, especially those trafficked internationally or whose children are with other family members or in foster care. This makes it difficult for many survivors to access domestic violence shelters due to the limited availability of single beds. As a result, they often remain in unsafe situations while double-occupancy beds go unfilled,” said Dr. Lenore Schaffer, Ph.D.,  Director of Economic Empowerment at Restore. “Being denied shelter is itself traumatic. Many survivors experience complex trauma, and when they attempt to rebuild their lives and when they face rejection because they don’t qualify for single-person beds it reinforces the lies told by their traffickers, such as “You won’t get help. I’m the only one who can take care of you, or You won’t have a place to live, and you’ll need to come back to me.” This keeps them feeling stuck and without choices. It’s not uncommon for survivors to tell us at Restore that they feel compelled to return to their trafficker when they learn they can’t access a DV shelter.”

“More and more survivors without children—including older adults, male survivors, and LGBTQIA+ survivors—are coming through our doors seeking safety, but the way the State funds our domestic violence shelter programs has not kept up and it is becoming increasingly difficult for organizations like ours to serve those who need support,” says Noelle Withers, Chief Program Officer at Volunteers of America-Greater New York. “Domestic violence impacts people of all genders and family compositions and all survivors deserve safe access to shelter. The SAFE Shelter Act will support domestic violence shelter providers that serve adults without children by removing the fiscal penalty for doing so. This will open new avenues for providers like VOA-GNY to accommodate more single member households in need—including those who are the most marginalized and most often excluded by the current system.”

 

“The current per diem reimbursement system, established more than 35 years ago, fails to address the growing number of single adult victims of domestic violence fleeing abusive situations. Based on the maximum 180-day length of stay for survivors in shelter, a DV program stands to lose nearly $21,000 for just one double-bed unit used to temporarily house a single adult. This loss would be catastrophic for even the most financially sound domestic violence program. Failing to provide shelter to a single individual could increase the likelihood the victim will return to the abusive situation. Further, this inequitable reimbursement process leads to significant undue burden for single survivors seeking shelter, particularly those in historically excluded communities, including LGBTQIA+ survivors, older adult survivors and survivors with pets. New York State can and must do better by passing the S.A.F.E. Shelter Act to ensure all survivors of domestic violence have equitable access to shelter,” said Joan Gerhardt, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

About Safe Horizon

Established in 1978, Safe Horizon is the largest non-profit victim services agency in the United States. It touches the lives of more than 250,000 children, adults, and families affected by crime and abuse throughout New York City each year. Safe Horizon envisions a society free of family and community violence, leading the way by empowering victims of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, and human trafficking to move from crisis to confidence. Safe Horizon’s mission is to provide support, prevent violence and promote justice for victims of crime and abuse, their families, and communities. For more information, please visit www.safehorizon.org.

 

About Urban Resource Institute:
URI is the largest provider of temporary housing for survivors of domestic violence in the country and a leading provider of transitional housing for families experiencing homelessness. Committed to ending cycles of violence and homelessness, URI offers trauma-informed, client-centered support to the families it serves. With 24 shelters in New York City, including 15 shelters specifically for domestic violence survivors, URI provides temporary housing to over 3,700 people each night and trauma-informed programming to approximately 40,000 people annually. Learn more by visiting www.urinyc.org.

About Volunteers of America-Greater New York

Volunteers of America-Greater New York is an anti-poverty organization working to end homelessness in the Greater New York area by 2050 by providing housing, health, and wealth-building services to individuals and families experiencing, or at imminent risk of, homelessness. Founded in New York City in 1896, we are the local affiliate of the national organization, Volunteers of America, Inc., and one of the largest providers of human services in the region with 70+ programs, including 7 domestic violence shelters, across NYC, Westchester County, and Northern New Jersey. To learn more, please visit voa-gny.org.

 

About New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NYSCADV)

Established in 1978, NYSCADV is designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as the information clearinghouse, primary point of contact, and resource center on domestic violence for the State of New York. NYSCADV is responsible for supporting the development of policies, protocol, and procedures to enhance domestic violence intervention and prevention and also provides education and technical assistance to the network of primary-purpose domestic violence service providers statewide.

 

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