Article  |  Victims

Transitional housing for victims of intimate partner violence

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Many victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) find themselves at increased risk for homelessness in an effort to escape violence. Flight from intimate partner violence is a leading cause of homelessness nationally,1 particularly for low income women2 and children.3 In fact, it is estimated that 92 percent of women who are homeless have experienced severe physical or sexual abuse in their lifetimes,4 and many IPV survivors struggle to obtain safe, affordable housing. A sample of 3,619 women in California was found to have four times the risk of housing instability5 when they experienced IPV in the past year.6 A national study of IPV prevalence found that only 48 percent of women who experienced rape, stalking or IPV in their lifetimes and indicated housing was needed received this support.7

Victim housing needs in Illinois

InfoNet is a data collection system maintained by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority that facilitates data collection about victims, their needs, and the services received. Currently, 67 domestic violence programs, 34 sexual assault providers, and eight child advocacy centers in Illinois enter data into the system. Although not all IPV victims seek support through domestic violence programs or programs using InfoNet (therefore these numbers do not represent the needs of all IPV victims in Illinois), this database is the only source of statewide, quantitative data available on IPV victim needs.

InfoNet can be used by domestic violence programs to record victim service needs at intake. InfoNet data collected at intake showed a notable number of victims seeking services needed shelter and housing. Between 2013 and 2015, 12,804 persons who sought services needed temporary shelter placements and 7,683 persons needed stable housing (Figure 1). This represented 14 percent and 9 percent, respectively, of all adult victims completing intake. Shelter and housing services ranked 6th and 7th in the top 10 needs identified by victims. Parents comprised a significant majority of the victims who needed shelter (66 percent) or housing (72 percent). Victims who reported needing shelter or housing services also were more likely to report needing financial and employment assistance (Figure 2).8 The connection between housing stability and financial and employment stability is common and can play a role in long-term victim well-being and escape from abuse.

The Authority also collects data on the number of victims turned away from shelters each year due to lack of bed space to gauge availability of, and access to, temporary housing. In 2015, 16,989 individuals were turned away from shelters due to lack of bed space, half whom were children.9

Housing instability and survivor outcomes

Lack of stable, safe and affordable housing is associated with negative outcomes. Women who experience IPV and housing instability either directly or indirectly related to their victimization also report poor health outcomes, including depression, stress, and worse self-care.10 A study of 278 female IPV victims found that housing instability was correlated with greater PTSD symptomology and depression and poorer quality of life even after controlling for other factors, such as age, reported alcohol and drug abuse, and perceived risk of lethal or serious injury violence.11 The relationship between depression and housing instability has been established in other studies; one study of men and women (n=1,024) found that depressive symptoms were significantly more likely among transient people (frequently moving in the past 6 months), even after adjusting for homelessness.12 Housing instability also was associated with more days off from work and emergency medical use.13 This uncertainty can occur at various points in time, including before, during, and after survivors leave abusive relationships1415 and is often associated with a multitude of other concerns facing IPV victims, such as poverty, unemployment, or familial issues.16 In some instances, housing insecurity and the perceived lack of alternatives may result in survivors returning to abusive homes.1718

Addressing housing instability can result in marked improvements across other areas of concerns. One study found that women who experienced IPV indicated housing stability played an important role in improving or maintaining their health.19

Addressing housing needs of victims

Assessment of need

Defining housing stability is important when developing tools that adequately assess need. Some researchers have defined housing stability as an individual’s regular access to housing of acceptable quality.20 Guided by this definition, researchers used interviews with homeless youth to design a 13-question stability measurement tool (called the Housing Security Scale) that focuses on the type of housing presently in use, recent housing history, economic, educational, criminal, and employment statuses, substance use, and personal ratings of satisfaction and stability. Tools like this may assist service providers in identifying people vulnerable to homelessness and can function as a basic risk-assessment to determine their service needs. Measures such as the Housing Instability Index21 also attempt to measure this characteristic, but are criticized for too much focus on length of time at a particular residence, when regular movement in some situations could feasibly be a sign of increasing stability.

Housing options

There are different housing options survivors may attempt to secure, each with their own limitations. Permanent housing programs come with long waiting lists and low-income housing units are difficult to find.22 To afford a fair market two-bedroom home in the United States, a full-time worker must earn two-and-a-half times the minimum wage, 52 percent higher than it was in 2000.23 Partner violence occurs more often in economically distressed homes in disadvantaged neighborhoods,24 which compounds the need for affordable housing. Even with a job, landlords sometimes exhibit significant bias against women who reference living in a shelter.25

Some victims may stay with friends or family, but one side effect of IPV is the social isolation that severs these important ties.26 Many victims are unable to rely on friends or family to provide long-term supportive housing. Weekly motels and emergency shelters are other common options, though these accommodations can be limited due to their availability or eligibility criteria.

Domestic violence shelters offer protection that is sensitive to victim needs, such as confidential locations and longer periods of stay (usually 30 to 60 days), but may have long waiting lists. General population homeless shelters often have more beds,27 but typically offer only a short-term reprieve. The act of leaving an abuser can also act as a trigger for intimate partner homicide and extreme violence,28 making appropriate and secure living space especially vital.

Transitional housing strengths and weaknesses

Transitional housing programs offer survivors long-term suitable housing and often include additional services that victims can access. Longer periods of stay, which typically last one to two years, and relevant support programming (counseling, employment assistance, and case management) fill an important gap between emergency and permanent housing.29 Transitional housing program funding is authorized under the Violence Against Women Act, which clarified in 2005 that applicants whose safety was in danger could be prioritized by public housing associations.30

Recommendations for length of stay in a transitional housing program are mixed. Length of stays for many transitional housing options is six to 24 months, with varying policies on whether stays can be extended and when programs begin encouraging the search for permanent housing.31 Duration of transitional housing is often mandated by funding considerations, such as the U.S Department of Housing’s Continuum of Care program eligibility requirements, rather than the health and safety of resident families.

Additional criticisms of some transitional housing programs include the lack of cultural sensitivity and rules that prohibit male children over the age of 13 from living on the premises.32 Concerns also have been expressed as it relates to mandates that victims sever ties with their abusers. In situations involving common children, rehousing may include determining whether healthy boundaries can be set for the benefit of the child-parent relationship.33

Stigmatization and embarrassment of living in a shelter are further barriers to fully utilizing the resources that providers have to offer, and research recommends the development of programs that support victim autonomy and dignity, particularly as victims are seeking services specifically to avoid a controlling or manipulative situation.34 35 Support services should also assist in helping victims identify and maintain permanent housing. Some survivors report struggling to find permanent housing even after securing transitional housing because of long waiting lists, resulting in some victims returning to abusers or having to rely on unstable housing options even after following a period of stability offered through transitional housing.36

Limitations to existing research

Most transitional housing research has focused on the reported need for safe, affordable housing and reported satisfaction with transitional housing services. Less research exists on whether and how transitional housing improves short- and long-term outcomes for IPV victims. In addition, the available research suffers from small sample sizes, reducing the ability to generalize findings, or uses cross-sectional designs that preclude determinations of causation.

The lack of a consistent definition of stability also reduces the comparability of the studies cited here. Housing stability assessment tools that efficiently identify those at high risk for homelessness are still in conceptual stages of development and require more rigorous evaluation.

Recommendations for policy and practice

  • Programs should demonstrate how they will support victim autonomy and dignity and help victims move successfully to permanent housing by developing program logic models and performance metrics that focus on client outcomes.
  • Programs should assess victim housing needs and risk for homelessness to ensure resources are targeted to those with greatest housing needs. Pre/post assessments should be completed to determine whether transitional housing and any additional programming offered to victims result in marked improvement in victim well-being and housing stability.
  • Programs should consider lengths of stay policies that allow for flexibility depending on a resident’s permanent housing outlook, health, and safety.
  • Policies that impact the use of transitional housing and victim and family outcomes should be examined, including policies related to the client’s relationship to the abuser, how the program addresses cultural differences, and residence restrictions related to teen-aged male children.
  • Future research should consider the length of time required for victims with IPV-related needs to secure permanent, adequate housing. Additional research also is needed on effective ancillary programming that supports attainment of long-term, stable housing.

References


  1. U.S. Conference of Mayors—Sodexho. (2005). Hunger and Homelessness Survey: A status report on hunger and homelessness in America’s cities, a 25-city survey. Washington, DC: Author.
  2. Menard, A. (2001). Domestic violence and housing: Key policy and program challenges. Violence Against Women, 7, 707-720.
  3. Bassuk, E., Murphy, C., Coupe, N. T., Kenney, R. R., & Beach, C. A. (2014). America’s youngest outcasts: A report card on child homelessness. Waltham, MA: The National Center on Family Homelessness. Available at: http://www.air.org/sites/default/files/downloads/report/Americas-Youngest-Outcasts-Child-Homelessness-Nov2014.pdf.
  4. Bassuk, E. L., Melnick, S., & Browne, A. (1998). Responding to the needs of low income and homeless women who are survivors of family violence. Journal of American Medical Women’s Association, 53(2), 57-64.
  5. Housing instability for this study was based on participant self-reports of late rent, frequent moves because of finances, and lack of own housing.
  6. Pavao, J., Alvarez, J., Baumrind, N., Induni, M., & Kimerling, R. (2007). Intimate partner violence and housing instability. American Journal of Preventive Medicine,32(2), 143-146.
  7. Breiding, M.J., Chen J., & Black, M.C. (2014). Intimate Partner Violence in the United States — 2010. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  8. Financial: r = .396, n=89,888; Employment: r = .310, n=89,888.
  9. This number includes anytime a victim is turned away from a shelter due to bed space. Therefore, some victims will be counted more than once.
  10. Clough, A., & Draughon, J. E., Njie-Carr, V., Rollins, C., & Glass, N. (2014). ‘Having housing made everything else possible’: Affordable, safe, and stable housing for women survivors of violence. Qualitative Social Work, 13(5), 671-688.
  11. Rollins, C., Glass, N. E., Perrin, N. A., Billhardt, K. A., Clough, A., Barnes, J., … & Bloom, T. L. (2012). Housing instability is as strong a predictor of poor health outcomes as level of danger in an abusive relationship: Findings from the SHARE study. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 27(4), 623-643. DOI: 10.1177/0886260511423241.
  12. Davey-Rothwell, M. A., German, D., & Latkin, C. A. (2008). Residential transience and depression: Does the relationship exist for men and women? Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 85(5), 707-716.
  13. Rollins et al. (2012).
  14. Daoud, et al. (2015).
  15. O’Campo, P., Dauod, N., Hamilton-Wright, S., & Dunn, J. (2015) Conceptualizing housing instability: Experiences with material and psychological instability among women living with partner violence. Housing Studies, 31(1), 1-19. DOI:10.1080/02673037.2015.1021768.
  16. O’Campo et al. (2015).
  17. O’Campo et al. (2015).
  18. Wilson, P. R., & Laughon, K. (2015). House to house, shelter to shelter: Experiences of black women seeking housing after leaving abusive relationships. Journal of Forensic Nursing, 11(2), 77-83. DOI: 10.1097/JFN.0000000000000067.
  19. Daoud, N., Matheson, F. I., Pedersen, C., Hamilton-Wright, S., Minh, A., Zhang, J., & O’Campo, P. (2015). Pathways and trajectories linking housing instability and poor health among low-income women experiencing Intimate Partner Violence (IPV): Toward a conceptual framework. Women & Health, 56(2), 1-18. DOI: 10.1080/03630242.2015.1086465.
  20. Frederick, T. J., Chwalek, M., Hughes, J., Karabanow, J., & Kidd, S. (2014). How stable is stable? Defining and measuring housing stability. Journal of Community Psychology, 42(8), 964-979.
  21. Rollins et al. (2012).
  22. Choi, N. G., & Snyder, L. J. (1999). Homeless families with children: A subjective experience of homelessness. New York, NY: Springer.
  23. Arnold, A., Crowley, S., Bravve, E., Brundage, S., & Biddlecombe, C. (2014). Out of reach, 2014. Washington, DC: National Low Income Housing Coalition.
  24. Benson, M. L. & Fox, G. L. (2004). When violence hits home: How economics and neighborhood play a role. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice.
  25. Barata, P. C. & Stewart, D. E. (2010). Searching for housing as a battered woman: Does discrimination affect reported availability of a rental unit? Psychology of Women Quarterly, 34, 43-55.
  26. Eyler, A. E., & Cohen, A. (1999). Case studies in partner violence. American Family Physician, 60(9), 2569-2576.
  27. Baker, C. K., Niolon, P. H., & Oliphant, H. (2009). A descriptive analysis of transitional housing programs for survivors of intimate partner violence in the United States. Violence Against Women, 15(4), 460-481.
  28. Campbell, J. C., Webster, D., Koziol-McLain, J., Block, C., Campbell, D., Curry, M. A., et al. (2003). Risk factors for femicide in abusive relationships: Results from a multisite case control study. American Journal of Public Health, 93(7), 1089−1097.
  29. Baker et al. (2009).
  30. National Network to End Domestic Violence. (2016). Housing — Legislative Policies and Action. Retrieved from: http://nnedv.org/policy/issues/housing.html
  31. Correia, A., & Melbin, A. (2005) Transitional housing services for victims of domestic violence. National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women. Retrieved from: http://www.vawnet.org/Assoc_Files_VAWnet/TransHousingServices.pdf
  32. Melbin, A., Sullivan, C. M., & Cain, D. (2003). Transitional supportive housing programs: Battered women’s perspectives and recommendations. Affilia, 18, 1-16.
  33. Long, S. M. (2015) Navigating homelessness and navigating abuse: How homeless mothers find transitional housing with managing intimate partner violence. Journal of Community Psychology, 43(8), 1019-1035.
  34. Baker, C. K., Billhardt, K. A., Warren, J., Rollins, C., & Glass, N. E. (2010). Domestic violence, housing instability, and homelessness: A review of housing policies and program practices for meeting the needs of survivors. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 15, 430-439.
  35. Clough et al. (2014).
  36. O’Campo et al. (2015).

Caitlin DeLong

Caitlin DeLong is an Authority research consultant whose work focuses on public health disparities, correctional best practices, and program evaluation. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s degree in criminology (with a concentration in violence prevention) from the University of Illinois Chicago.

Tracy Hahn

Tracy Hahn manages criminal justice research that is sponsored by ICJIA. She has overseen research and program evaluations conducted by experts in the field and has worked with the Authority’s Federal and State Grants Unit to develop program performance measures, identify evidence-based practices and document program effectiveness. Prior to her work with the Authority, she assisted in program development under the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. Ms. Hahn earned a Master of Public Administration and a Bachelor degree in Legal Studies from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

Megan Alderden, Ph.D.

Megan Alderden is research director of the Authority’s Research & Analysis Unit and the Illinois Statistical Analysis Center. Ms. Alderden joined the Authority in June with 16 years of research experience in the field of criminal justice working as an academic and practitioner. Prior to joining the Authority, Ms. Alderden was an associate professor of criminal justice at Saint Xavier University, and preceding her work in academia, Ms. Alderden was a researcher for the Chicago Police Department and the Authority. Ms. Alderden’s most recent research focuses on sexual victimization and issues in policing. She is currently working as a co-principal investigator on a project examining evidence-based practices in homicide and sexual assault investigation in Illinois and on a federally funded study examining the impact of forensic evidence on prosecutorial decisions and court outcomes in sexual assault cases.

She is also a researcher with the National Police Research Platform, where her work focuses on police diversification, police culture, and the civilianization of police agencies. She has published in several government reports and articles in scholarly journals. Ms. Alderden received her doctorate of philosophy in criminal justice with a gender and women studies concentration from the University of Illinois at Chicago, her master of science degree in criminal justice from Michigan State University and her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Calvin College.

Jennifer Hiselman

Jennifer Hiselman manages ICJIA’s InfoNet System, a web based data collection and reporting system used by over 100 victim service providers statewide. She joined ICJIA in 1996 as a researcher with focus areas in victimization, victim services, domestic violence and sexual assault. She worked closely with ICJIA’s Federal and State Grants Unit assessing Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grantees’ performance, developing data collection tools and supporting victim services strategic planning. She lead an evaluation of Illinois’ Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) programs and the state’s first crime victimization survey of citizens. Jennifer has served as ICJIA’s InfoNet manager since 2005. In addition to continuing research in her focus areas, she oversees the operation of InfoNet, manages project budgets, provides training and technical assistance, hosts user forums to identify new data collection needs, and works closely with victim service providers and other stakeholders using InfoNet’s data for strategic planning. Outside of ICJIA, Jennifer volunteers for a domestic violence service provider in her community.


Transitional Housing for Victims of Intimate Partner Violence