The Importance of Safe, Affordable, & Accessible Housing for Victims of Domestic Violence

Last month, in observation of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Jennifer Arsenian, legal director of the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence and member of the Alabama Council on Violence Against Women, gave a special presentation at One Roof’s monthly membership meeting. Jennifer encouraged One Roof and its member agencies to be represented in the ACVAW, and informed us about housing-specific updates to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 2013.

ACVAW’s members include representatives from ACADV and ACASV (the Alabama Coalition Against Sexual Violence), social service providers, health care providers, law enforcement, government officials, policy makers, and legislators. Information about their work on the Alabama State Plan Responding to Domestic Violence can be found here.

Here’s a quick recap of some of the housing protections now secured by VAWA:

  • A person cannot be denied services, discriminated against, or evicted from housing based solely on their victim status.
  • A lease can be divided in favor of a person who has experienced domestic violence if both the victim and batterer are on the lease, provided the victim meets eligibility requirements.
  • If a lease is in the batterer’s name only, the lease can be transferred to the victim’s name, provided they meet eligibility requirements.
  • If a person is in housing and feels scared or threatened, VAWA allows for an emergency transfer (VAWA overrides current limitations on transfers).
  • Public housing providers can accept a written statement to verify victimization, as well as a HUD form or police report, but there is no one document necessary to ensure VAWA provisions are upheld. (Important note: This documentation must be confidential.)

For more information on VAWA updates and housing protections, check out the Domestic Violence Resource Guide for Public Housing Programs. For information and statistics about domestic violence in Alabama, check out the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center’s 2012 Domestic Violence in Alabama report.

During One Roof’s most recent Point-in-Time survey, we found that about 10% of our community members experiencing homelessness are victims of domestic violence. In our community of service providers, two of One Roof’s member agencies have programs and services specifically for victims of domestic violence: the YWCA and SafeHouse of Shelby County.

Through education, advocacy, and coordination of services, One Roof is dedicated to making sure that safe and affordable housing is accessible for members of our homeless community who are victims of domestic violence. As always, we’re here to help. Please contact us for assistance finding appropriate services for victims of domestic violence.


Josh Helms is an AmeriCorps member serving at One Roof as the Capacity Building Assistant.

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