Intimate partner violence (IPV) is considered a major public health concern as it can lead to deleterious consequences for survivors and their children, including physical and mental health problems as well as housing instability and financial devastation. IPV is a leading cause of homelessness, and helping survivors obtain affordable housing is a growing focus of advocates working in domestic violence programs.
In the current political and socioeconomic climate, it is essential to better understand the complexities involved in helping IPV survivors obtain safe and stable housing, and reflect on the importance of integrating critical reflection, intersectionality, and key principles of social work practice into this important work.
This paper helps facilitate this conversation by examining the retrospective accounts of a group of diverse advocates working with IPV survivors to obtain housing, illustrating how complicated it can be to successfully house IPV survivors.
Eleven advocates from three different regions of the United States were invited to participate in in-depth interviews about their work helping IPV survivors obtain housing.
Some advocates worked in communities with very limited affordable housing while others had more options available to them. Four of the advocates were White, three were Latina, two were African American, one was Native American, and one was Asian. Three worked in culturally specific agencies (focused on immigrants and refugees, LGBTQ communities, and immigrant Latinas, respectively).
Semi-structured qualitative interviews elicited reflections on a recent case representative of their work, in which advocates were successful in obtaining housing with a survivor. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and coded thematically using NVivo qualitative software, guided by the principles of Miles et al. (2014) and an inductive approach to qualitative analysis.
The eleven advocates shared ten recent cases through which they had successfully obtained housing with an IPV survivor. Two Latina advocates worked together on one case, illustrating the reality that rarely does one advocate work completely alone when supporting a survivor. All of the advocates mentioned in their interviews that other staff had assisted them in their efforts.
Five major themes were identified from the interviews: (1) the need to continually address safety; (2) the need to continually address trauma; (3) the importance of community connections; (4) the time-consuming nature of system factors, often resulting in extended homelessness; and (5) the importance of addressing multiple, interrelated issues and not just housing.
Conclusions and Implications:
Findings highlight the complexities involved in helping IPV survivors obtain safe and stable housing. Social workers and practitioners must often address non-housing related concerns, such as safety and trauma-related issues, before and/or alongside efforts to secure and retain stable housing. Further, findings highlight the importance of integrating critical reflection with intersectionality to better understand how sociopolitical factors and structures contribute to the oppression of survivors, particularly those with multiple marginalized identifies, and address power relations in a meaningful way.