Domestic violence (DV) is a leading cause of homelessness for women (Wilder Research Center, 2007). DV shelters play an integral role linking survivors to housing options. Numerous survivors identify their primary goal as securing affordable, safe housing (Fisher & Stylianou, 2016), however not all survivors are able to do so after a short-term DV shelter stay. Despite the importance of housing, few researchers have examined housing outcomes and the circumstances that impact housing outcomes post-shelter.
This study examined whether post-shelter housing was related to survivors’ socio-demographics, shelter services, or other outcomes using program data collected by an urban nonprofit operating multiple DV shelters. Chi-squares and ANOVAs were utilized to examine associations.
The sample consisted of 442 survivors with an average age of 28.8. Almost all (91.6%) of the residents had children. Over half (57.5%) of the residents identified as Black/African-American, 34.8% as Hispanic/Latino, 4.0% as White/Caucasian, and 3.7% as “Other.” Over a third (38.8%) reported not having a high school degree, 51.2% a high school degree, and 10.0% a college degree. Approximately a tenth (11.7%) of residents reported no work experience, 69.0% up to three years of work experience, and 19.4% more than three years. Upon entering shelter, 30.7% reported no income, 38.4% a monthly income of up to $500, and 30.9% a monthly income >$500.
The sample was separated into five groups based on post-shelter housing including residents that discharged to the general homeless system (22.6%), unsubsidized housing (17.4%), subsidized housing (34.2%), transitional DV shelter (16.5%), and other (9.3%). Results demonstrated that residents without children, with no high school degree, no work history, or income at intake of <$500/month had the highest association with discharging to the general homeless system. In addition, residents who were administratively discharged or residents with no income at discharge had the highest association with discharging to the general homeless system. Residents that received higher numbers of housing services and residents that had longer shelter stays were more likely to discharge to subsidized housing, while residents that received higher numbers of individual counseling/advocacy sessions were more likely to discharge to DV transitional housing and subsidized housing. Residents who left on their own had the highest association with discharging to unsubsidized housing. Residents with employment income at discharge had the highest association with discharging to a DV transitional program.
This paper provides insight into the factors that are associated with housing outcomes post-DV shelter. Low-income residents without children, without a high school diploma, and with no work history were most likely to discharge to the general homeless system, as were residents that were administratively discharged. This finding suggests that the most financially vulnerable survivors are most likely to remain homeless post-shelter stay. Additionally, DV residents that received higher number of housing, individual counseling, and advocacy services were more likely to discharge to transitional or subsidized housing. This paper demonstrates the importance of services for linking survivors to positive housing outcomes and suggests the importance of enhancing programming to financially vulnerable survivors.