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Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson and Dr. Dawnn Lewis Keynote A Daylong Panel Event Highlighting the Connection Between Domestic Violence and Homelessness 

NEW YORK (October 5, 2023) – Urban Resource Institute (URI) partnered with City & State New York to kick off Domestic Violence Awareness Month with “A Blueprint for Change: Ending Cycles of Gender-Based Violence & Homelessness, a powerful day of talks that further examine the link between domestic violence and homelessness, and present immediate solutions. 

Held at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York’s Battery Park City, the event featured keynote presentations from New York City Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom; stage and screen star and gender-based violence survivor Dr. Dawnn J. Lewis; Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson; and Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark. 

“It’s an honor and a pleasure to host some of the best minds who are committed to expanding the framework of safe spaces for survivors. The often overlapping crises of gender-based violence and homelessness are solvable with the right policies and investments in place,” said Nathaniel Fields, Chief Executive Officer at URI. “As we work to develop those policies, it is vital that we center the voices and experiences of survivors. Better than anyone else, they know what they need to achieve safety and healing.”

Economic empowerment for survivors led the day’s discussions, with a focus on resources that lead to long term stability after recovering from economic abuse. The organization also celebrated the success of its People and Animals Living Safely (PALS) program, which celebrates its 10th year of providing survivors of gender-based violence with shelter along with their pets. The day also focused on the success of URI’s Abusive Partner Intervention Program (APIP) which engages those who’ve caused harm to their partners as a form of intervention. And finally, expert discussions surrounded early intervention among youth as young as 12.

“Surviving domestic violence mirrors recovery from a natural disaster – clean-up is necessary before reconstruction,” said Hope Dawson Sessoms, Domestic Violence Survivor, and former client of the Urban Resource Institute (URI) PALS Program. “URI was there for the clean-up and to rehabilitate my life after the chaotic disaster of abuse and trauma. And through its People and Animals Living Safely (PALS) program, my entire family – including our dog, Coco – were able to heal and rebuild together.”  

“At HUD, we work hard to help support survivors maintain safe housing while ensuring that housing providers understand their obligations under the Violence Against Women Act.  For years, I have pushed for additional funding to support organizations that not only provide safe housing, but the social services that are often needed during some of the most challenging times.  I’ve had an opportunity to work with many housing providers, like URI and have stressed to other landlords that survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking cannot be denied housing. I’m proud to participate in URI’s discussion with thought leaders and other government officials with a common goal to end cycles of gender-based violence and homelessness,” said Alicka Ampry-Samuel, Regional Administrator, Region II – New York & New Jersey, U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD). 

“Domestic violence is a key driver of homelessness, and we are constantly working to identify new and innovative means of building on our comprehensive services in order to better serve some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers in shelter,” said Department of Homeless Services Administrator Joslyn Carter. “We are not only proud of our long-standing partnership with URI, but strongly believe in the work they do to ensure that clients and their pets can remain together during traumatic experiences. Conversations like this are vital to furthering our shared mission to strengthen supports for all clients in shelter, including domestic violence survivors, as they stabilize their lives.”

“The Mayor’s Office for Nonprofit Services is deeply committed to advancing the Administration’s vision of building stronger, safer communities and putting an end to gender-based violence. With a focus on strengthening partnerships in service to our communities, we continue to find ways to streamline processes, systems and remove barriers to support the valuable work of our nonprofit partners,” said Karen Ford, Executive Director of Mayor’s Office of Nonprofit Services.  

“In our mission to protect children and support families, the NYC Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) is working to address the root causes of family violence while helping survivors and children stay safe. Our program, ‘A Safe Way Forward,’ provides services to survivors of intimate partner violence and the children in the household, including information about how to make an effective safety plan, as well as interventions for the persons causing harm so that they can work towards changing their behavior and end the cycle of violence. We are pleased that the program is having a positive impact on families affected by intimate partner violence and look forward to continuing our work to address this issue,” said ACS Deputy Commissioner Jacqueline Martin 

“Domestic Violence has a multi-dimensional effect on survivors.  The trauma interferes with their ability to be self-supporting, sometimes spiraling them into homelessness.  Economic abuse, a key component of domestic violence, forces survivors to choose between physical safety and economic safety, affecting their financial status and credit for years to come. The Legal Aid Society’s holistic approach, utilizing family law attorneys who understand the financial issues of a divorce, coupled with consumer and bankruptcy attorneys with a DV focus, allows survivors to be free of the economic abuses of former partners,” said Laura A. Russell, Esq., Citywide Director, Family/Domestic Violence Unit, The Legal Aid Society.   

New York State Office of Children and Family Services’ Acting Commissioner Suzanne Miles-Gustave said, “As OCFS strives to protect our children and strengthen our families, we know that domestic violence may lead to involvement with child welfare services and can be a precursor to future, generational violence. It’s a stark reminder that working alongside our partners is key to developing innovative strategies that keep our children and the adults in their lives safe. We are grateful to the Urban Resource Institute for bringing us together to continue this collaboration. OCFS is proud to administer funding to our local voluntary agencies to offer care and concrete support to our survivors. We are helping implement the Safe and Together model, a strengths-based effort to confront domestic violence. Our Division of Juvenile Justice and Opportunities for Youth is actively coordinating with the One Love Foundation to educate young people in our care on how to identify and avoid unhealthy relationships. These are just some of our prevention programs and I’m encouraged by the equal determination shown by our fellow participants.” 

“The New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence is proud to serve the constituents of New York as the only executive-level state agency dedicated to domestic and gender-based violence. We are dedicated to being survivor-centered, trauma informed, and culturally responsive. Thank you Urban Resources Institute for recognizing the important role that programs for those who cause harm play in ending gender-based violence.” said Jara Traina, General Counsel & Director of the Bureau of Law and Public Safety, New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence.

“The Urban Resource Institute (URI) has historically been a partner in ensuring quality of life and dignity for survivors in my district and across Brooklyn who are looking for stability and housing after experiencing both economic hardships and domestic violence,” said Council Member Louis. “I am thrilled to be a part of this effort to bring together leading voices in the industry to expand safe spaces for survivors while also discussing the crises of gender-based violence and homelessness to develop the effective policies and investments in our communities. I thank URI for hosting this historic panel discussion, which affirms the significance of emphasizing survivors’ perspectives and experiences in our pursuit for safety and healing.”

“Violence against women is more than a shameful and violent act.  Freedom from the fear of violence at home is a basic human right.  This type of violence is one of the most pervasive acts in society today and it knows no boundaries.  Victims are of all race, color, creed, socio-economic background and sexual orientation.  We have an obligation as leaders to push the progress towards equality, accountability and ending this violence.  We, as men, must stand up, speak out and examine ourselves.  We must be willing to hold accountable anyone whose behavior contributes to such forms of violence.  I commit to this philosophy and invite all of my friends and all others to do the same,” said Dave M. Ryan, Director, Westchester High-Risk Team; Former Chief of Police, Pound Ridge Police Department.

“Homelessness and domestic violence are closely linked, and in both fields it should be understood that animals are a part of our families. Emergency shelter and housing should be fully inclusive of companion animals to remove barriers to services, making an end to homelessness and domestic violence a more trauma-informed process. Urban Resource Institute’s People & Animals Living Safely Program has demonstrated for ten years that not only is it possible to shelter people and animals together, but it enriches the services being offered. This is why My Dog Is My Home values our partnership with Urban Resource Institute so much. We are able to point to them as an example of how co-sheltering and co-living can be done well and bring their practices to a national audience as a blueprint for success,” said Christine Kim, Founder, My Dog Is My Home.

“Through our NYC Financial Justice Hotline, we hear from New Yorkers who have been coerced into debt or otherwise exploited economically by an abusive partner,” said Andy Morrison, Associate Director of New Economy Project. “New York must advance policies that protect survivors from financial abuse while also addressing root causes of economic and housing insecurity and homelessness. We need bold solutions like community land trusts, public banking, and community development credit unions that build wealth in redlined neighborhoods across NYC.”

As the largest provider of domestic violence shelter services in the U.S. and in celebration of PALS’ 10th anniversary, URI launched a new video series, ‘PALS’ Stories’ – the extraordinary journey in offering co-living for domestic violence survivors and pets to stay and heal together in shelter, through the voices of people who inspire and elevate the groundbreaking program’s mission. Watch them at: https://urinyc.org/uripals/palsstories/. URI is also co-sponsoring the 6th Annual Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark 5K Run/Walk/Roll to End Domestic Violence on Saturday, October 7.

About Urban Resource Institute (URI): 
Urban Resource Institute (URI) transforms the lives of domestic violence survivors and homeless families by empowering individuals, families, and communities, particularly communities of color and other vulnerable populations, to end cycles of domestic violence, homelessness, poverty, and trauma by increasing safety and resiliency. As the largest provider of domestic violence shelter services in the US and a leading provider of homeless services, URI’s programs impact more than 40,000 individuals annually through prevention, intervention, education, and direct services in both residential and non-residential settings in New York. URI is recognized as a thought-leader with influence across the U.S. and beyond. For more information, visit www.urinyc.org or follow on FacebookInstagramLinkedIn, and Twitter

If you or someone you know needs immediate assistance, call NYC’s 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-621-HOPE or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. 

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