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Women who are victims of domestic violence experience unique housing issues.  Women and their children are often forced to move out of their homes away from their abuser to seek other housing where they are safe.  In addition to poverty and the lack of affordable housing, women survivors may potentially have to deal with a number of other barriers including poor or no credit history, criminal history resulting from self-defense, coercion or mutual arrest, and stereotypes about survivors (Hyman, A. & Schultzman, M., 2008)

Often times, leaving an abusive relationship, means leaving a place of residence.  Taking this into consideration, it is not surprising that a major barrier to leaving an abusive relationship is housing.  A domestic violence survivor may face many challenges in the area of housing.  She may not be able to afford to live on her own, she may have bad credit or may be denied housing due to her history of domestic violence (Hyman, A. & Schultzman, M., 2008).  The reality for many domestic violence survivors is that having consistent and stable housing means staying in an abusive relationship.

When a survivor is ready or able to leave an abusive relationship and finds herself needing to find or keep housing, there are programs, services and some laws that provide some help.  Shelters are a form of emergency housing and often have case management services to help a survivor create a plan to get back on her feet.  Transitional housing programs offer a longer stay than shelters and usually are subsidized.  Sometimes priority is given to domestic violence survivors in public housing.  For information on shelters, transitional housing and/or other housing options for domestic violence survivors, contact your local domestic violence agency.

Some financial assistance is available to domestic violence survivors through the Victims of Crime Program.  If you have had police involvement in your domestic violence situation, you may qualify for relocation expenses or other expenses related to keeping you safe in your current home.  For example, you may get help with changing the locks on your doors.  California has a statewide program called Safe At Home which provides domestic violence survivors with a confidential mail forwarding services so that a survivor’s actual residential address is not easily discovered.

Because of past discrimination experienced by domestic violence survivors, certain laws were created to protect the rights of domestic violence survivors.  The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 2005 states that a person cannot be denied public housing because they are a victim of domestic violence (http://www.aclu.org/pdfs/womensrights/subsidized_housing_2008.pdf).  In California, the Early Lease Termination Law allows victims of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault the right to end their lease early without penalty so that they can find safer housing (National Housing Law Project, 2009).  The Federal Fair Housing Act bans landlords and housing providers from discriminating against domestic violence survivors either by denying an application from a domestic violence survivor or evicting a survivor (ACLU, Women’s Rights Project). 


National Housing Law Project
The National Housing Law Project focuses its activities on housing programs that serve the needs of very low-income households and on the rights of the residents in that housing, including domestic violence survivors.
614 Grand Avenue, Suite 320, Oakland, CA 94610
Phone 510-251-9400 Fax 510-451-2300

Bay Area Legal Aid
Bay Area Legal Aid serves clients who are low- and very low-income in the following practice areas:  housing, domestic violence prevention, public benefits and health care access.
Alameda County
1735 Telegraph Avenue
Oakland, CA 94612

For Further Information

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Fact Sheet on Domestic Violence and Housing

Family Violence Prevention Fund
Fact Sheet on Housing and Domestic Violence

The Rights of Domestic Violence Survivors in Public and Subsidized Housing

Housing Discrimination and Domestic Violencehttp://www.fairhousingrights.org/Resources/Educational_Materials/FHRC/Domestic_Violence/Housing%20Discrimination%20and%20DV.pdf

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