By Che Hatter
During my AmeriCorps training, we had a Cardboard Connect workshop to highlight the difficulty of navigating homelessness in many different scenarios. If you are unfamiliar, Cardboard Connect is a simulation facilitated by One Roof that provides each participant with a random card describing a particular homelessness situation. The participant must go through the simulation to collect three things: a source of income, three meals, and a safe place to sleep. The scenario I chose was for a young stay-at-home wife with an abusive spouse. By the conclusion of Cardboard Connect, I couldn’t find a job because I had no previous work experience. I ended up finding only two meals that day. Because I had no money of my own, I could not rent an apartment and since my spouse cut me off from my relatives and friends, there were no support networks for me to contact. All of the shelters filled their beds for the day meaning I had two options, neither of them safe: sleep outside or live with my spouse.
October is nationally recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. And while conversations about supporting survivors to leave their abusers have been more prevalent, we are missing an important tangible issue. Where can these individuals and families go to escape intimate partner violence? Isolation and creating dependence are common abuse tactics. Meaning even if someone desperately wants to leave their abusive relationship, doing so could mean living on the streets. For many – and women, in particular – domestic violence is the primary cause of their homelessness. Without appropriate shelter and resources, victims of domestic violence who leave their abusers may simply be trading danger at home for danger on the streets. Additionally, abusive relationships are prone to escalation and many end up dying at the hands of their partners before finding the opportunity to escape. So far in 2016, domestic violence has resulted in 15 homicides in our community.
We cannot have a significant conversation about ending domestic violence if were are unwilling to talk about available resources and homelessness. One Roof is proud to partner with several agencies providing services to individuals fleeing domestic violence. The YWCA Central Alabama provides a range of services for domestic violence survivors, including confidential shelter for women and children. SafeHouse of Shelby County works to empower survivors to prevent further abuse by providing emergency and transitional housing. One Place Metro Alabama Family Justice Center is an upcoming collaborative organization that will provide free and confidential services to remove the barriers to reporting and seeking help. These organizations do substantial work in providing safe havens for survivors. However, there is still a pressing need for affordable housing in our community. We cannot expect to empower survivors or end the cycle of abuse, if we are unwilling to provide the necessary tools to create accessible, safe, and sustainable living outside of domestic violence.
If you are experiencing a domestic violence situation and need help, please call the Crisis Hotline at 205-322-4878.
Che is an AmeriCorps member currently serving with One Roof through the YWCA Central Alabama’s Building Communities, Bettering Lives Program.