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Protecting Victims of Violence Through Housing Legislation  

Author:  Erica L.  Smock, Esq..; Tammy L.  Kuennen, Esq..

Source: Volume 08, Number 02, December/January 2003 , pp.17-20(4)

Domestic Violence Report

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Abuse victims face enormous challenges in their lives as a result of the abuse they endure. One problem often encountered by victims is that of housing–including problems with attaining emergency shelter (either due to chronic shortages of shelter space or rules which filter out women with pets, older sons, substance abuse problems and so forth); problems with lack of availability of transitional housing; chronic wait lists for public housing; a lack of availability of other affordable housing and a chronic shortage of housing subsidies. An additional problem is that of discrimination–many women fleeing violence face pervasive discrimination by landlords, making it harder to find and maintain housing. In addition to these systemic housing problems, women fleeing abuse also face hurdles specific to their situations: many have little money and no access to bank accounts, making them unable to afford housing; others have fled without documentation necessary to rent an apartment or apply for loans; many are forced to leave their jobs to flee the violence and therefore cannot demonstrate a source of income required by some landlords; some are unable to commit to long-term leases (given the real fear that their abusers may locate them and they may need to flee again). Given these various hurdles, battered women often end up homeless, or are forced to divide up their families and separate from their children, or worse yet, return to the batterer for lack of any better options. These issues are discussed in the context of housing legislation on a state-by-base and issue-by-issue basis.

Keywords: housing reform legislation

Affiliations:  1: Center for Reproductive Law and Policy; 2: Georgetown University Law Center.

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