Housing First Program: How Haven Hills Helps Survivors of Domestic Violence Find Housing
For 43 years, Haven Hills has been adapting to provide domestic violence survivors with services to support their emerging needs. From our humble beginning as a hotline that operated from 9 am – 4 pm, when the Savings and Loan bank that donated space was open, to the opening of our shelters and our Service Center.
We pride ourselves in providing innovative services to help survivors overcome their trauma and build better lives for themselves and their children. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve been integrating more into housing issues over the past five years. Reports state that safe, affordable housing is often one of the primary barriers survivors face when leaving their abusive partner. Those reports also document domestic violence as the leading cause of homelessness for women and children.
In 2020, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) reported that 18,858 women, men, and children across the county have experienced or are homeless due to domestic violence, a 40% increase from 2019. Sadly, DV victims make up 41% of the total “unsheltered” homeless population or those living on the streets, in their cars, and other places not suited to human habitation. Although these are alarming figures, many professionals argue that these statistics are low and do not accurately capture the number of domestic violence survivors living on the streets.
We have seen survivors leave our transitional shelter for years now and struggle to find affordable housing. Upon leaving, many survivors often face two terrible choices: return to their abusers or become homeless. Societally, we urge survivors to leave their abusers, even going so far as to tell them they must leave. Yet, where should they go?
That’s why Haven Hills founded its Housing First Program in 2018. This program, funded through the California Office of Emergency Services, helps families find safe and affordable housing to ensure their safety. The program provides survivors with housing assistance for rent, utilities, furniture, and essential supplies. It also includes case management through our Housing Navigator. This staff member helps survivors locate and secure housing, ensuring they receive the supportive services needed to stay housed.
The Housing First Program has helped survivors exiting from our transitional program, crisis shelter, and outreach programs to find housing successfully. Before implementing this program, roughly 40–50% of clients leaving our transitional program obtained housing. In 2018, that percentage grew to 80%, and in 2019 100% of exiting survivors moved on to permanent housing. Without financial support, this upward trend would be very different.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially challenging for this program. Dozens of survivors have turned to us to help them stay in their homes as they faced reduced hours at work or loss of employment. Housing First funding has helped prevent homelessness for survivors with no other options. When DV survivors must choose between living in violence at home or subjecting themselves and their children to violence on the street, we must do all we can to make sure that these are not their only options.
Maria Barahona has been with Haven Hills since 2014. Over that time, she served as its Director of Development and currently serves as the Director of Compliance. In this capacity, she oversees our public contracts and new program development, including Haven Hill’s Housing First and DART Shelter Advocate Programs.
Please visit the National Alliance for Safe Housing and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) for more information on homelessness and domestic violence.