Abstract: Survivors Achieving Stable Housing (SASH): A Case Study (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Survivors Achieving Stable Housing (SASH): A Case Study

Friday, January 17, 2020
Liberty Ballroom K, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Jill Messing, MSW, PhD, Associate Professor, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Kristie Thomas, PhD, Associate Professor, Simmons College, Boston, MA
Allison Ward-Lasher, MSW, Doctoral Candidate, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
In 2017, one city in the Southwest United States earmarked 25 permanent Housing Choice vouchers (HCV) for survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV). This presentation offers a case study of the practitioner-researcher partnership that emerged, Survivors Achieving Stable Housing (SASH). During a time when many IPV programs are moving toward permanent housing as an alternative to emergency shelter for survivors IPV, this presentation offers a snapshot of the trajectories of IPV survivors who were offered the HCVs and illuminates the challenges faced by survivors at multiple levels.

Obtaining a HCV is a complicated and lengthy process, and referral for a HCV did not necessarily result in voucher receipt and HCV receipt did not necessarily lead to voucher use. Survivors transitioning from emergency shelter may be faced with time limits on shelter stays while awaiting this permanent housing option. Survivors are required to pass a background check and gather documentation (which they may have left behind when fleeing their abuser), as well as meet income, asset, and a host of other requirements to be eligible for the HCV. Survivors without stable housing and those hiding from an abusive partner may become difficult to locate during the lengthy HCV application process. Indeed, five survivors did not complete an HCV application. Some survivors submitted an application to the PHA, but did not receive a voucher for multiple reasons including a pending criminal charge and failure to provide additional documentation.

Some challenges, such as difficulties with landlords (e.g., additional background and credit checks, refusing to rent to IPV survivors), moving costs (including the need for furniture and other necessities), and a lack of affordable and safe housing, were similar to issues reported in previous research. However, specific to IPV survivors, intersecting Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) policies led to challenges in implementing and interpreting rules and guidance for IPV survivors. For example, HUD required documentation indicating that an abusive partner would not live in the home, but this was unsafe for survivors; knowledge of VAWA and advocacy were needed to ensure that survivors safely received their vouchers. Citizenship status was another hurdle. While undocumented survivors are able to receive a HCV (provided one citizen lives in the home), survivors who were not citizens could not afford their portion of the rent and subsequently chose alternative housing programs. Survivor safety, both from an abusive partner and across other aspects of their lives, was of particular concern to survivors as they considered housing options. Some survivors opted for transitional or other more traditional IPV housing options due to safety concerns.

 This presentation provides insights into the lived experiences of IPV survivors who choose to seek a HCV. Given the overlap between homelessness and IPV, social workers in both systems must be knowledgeable about intersecting issues faced by survivors as well as the policies affecting them in order to advocate effectively for their clients.