Barriers to Safe Affordable Housing
Deciding to leave an abusive relationship is difficult and taxing on survivors. Aside from wanting the violence to end, a survivor must consider their financial situation, anticipate strenuous legal battles, and find a safe affordable place to live. Some survivors will be able to turn to family or friends for support, while others, may not have equal access to certain resources and are at a higher risk of homelessness.
The Fair Housing Act was enacted on April 11, 1968 to protect people from discrimination when renting, buying, seeking housing assistance, or engaging in other housing-related activities. Historically marginalized communities such as people of color, families with children, the LGBTQ+ community, and people with disabilities, have experienced ongoing housing discrimination for decades. A combination of housing discrimination, affordability, poverty, domestic & sexual violence, mental health conditions and substance abuse issues are causing a surge in homelessness within minority communities.
According to Safe Housing Partnerships Consortium, 80% of homeless women with children experience domestic violence, and 57% of women report domestic violence as the immediate cause of their homelessness. This statistic clearly links domestic violence as a pre-cursor to homelessness. Other barriers obstructing safe affordable housing were poor credit, ruined rental histories, lack of steady employment, and housing discrimination.
The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2020 Annual Assessment Report found that African Americans and indigenous people (including Native Americans and Pacific Islanders) remained considerably overrepresented among the homeless population compared to the U.S. population. Almost 4 of every 10 people experiencing homelessness in January 2020 were Black or African American (39% or 228,796 people). A higher percentage of people in shelter were Black or African American (47% or 167,205 people) than were people experiencing homelessness in unsheltered locations (27% or 61,591). Almost a quarter of all people experiencing homelessness (23%) were Hispanic or Latino (counting people of all races who identify as Hispanic or Latino). Together, American Indian, Alaska Native, Pacific Islander and Native Hawaiian populations account for 1%of the U.S. population, but 5% of the homeless population and 7% of the unsheltered population.
To address these elevated rates of homelessness and alleviate this burden disproportionally affecting communities of color, survivors of domestic violence, the LGBTQ+ community, and people with disabilities. we must fund social service programs who provide culturally appropriate emergency and transitional shelter services, rental subsidies, rapid re-housing, and permanent housing to individuals at risk of homelessness.
As HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge recently stated, “It has been shown that helping people exit homelessness quickly through permanent housing without restrictions prevents a return to homelessness. Furthermore, a healthy productive life begins with a safe and stable home.”