AVLF consists of two key programs: Safe & Stable Homes, which concentrates on landlord-tenant disputes, and Safe & Stable Families, which assists with domestic violence-related legal problems. While these programs are easily separated from each other, intimate partner violence and poor housing often contribute to each other.
The statistics surrounding the overlap between these problems are staggering: 39% of cities in the U.S. cite domestic violence as the primary cause of family homelessness. Studies indicate that the majority of homeless women are survivors of domestic violence, with more than 80% of mothers with children experiencing homelessness having previously experienced abuse at the hands of a partner.
Many factors contribute to these numbers. Landlords often evict survivors as a direct result of domestic disturbances. Others flee their homes with little money, poor credit history, and uneven employment histories because of the financial abuse that frequently accompanies the physical violence. While protective orders can sometimes ask the abuser to pay for alternative housing, this is not a protection guaranteed to survivors.
In an effort to combat these widespread issues, AVLF’s Safe & Stable Homes and Safe & Stable Families are coming together to better screen for clients facing these interlocking situations. Beginning in August, clients are now being asked a series of questions during intake to determine if they should receive additional information and resources from AVLF’s other programs.
“Now we won’t be waiting for them to bring up issues they’re having. We’ll be asking.”
Safe & Stable Families Director Jamie Perez explained that while previous clients who expressed interest in additional legal services have been referred between programs, “We have never focused on asking, ‘Are our domestic violence clients dealing with mold their landlord won’t remedy? Is their air conditioning broken? Are they being wrongfully evicted?’ We’ve never just asked every person who comes in.”
Safe & Stable Homes Director Cole Thaler expressed similar sentiments, explaining that many clients may not realize AVLF handles both housing and domestic violence if they reach out for a particular issue: “Now we won’t be waiting for them to bring up issues they’re having. We’ll be asking.” Thaler said, “When they find out we handle both issues, hopefully, we can stabilize their situation even more than we otherwise would have.”
This is all part of AVLF’s goal to provide holistic services to our clients, so they don’t leave our programs with additional un-addressed problems. “Rather than just tackle one piece of their whole problem, we’re hoping to provide wraparound services, providing as many legal services in-house as possible to streamline the help they receive,” said Perez.
Although it is often easy to view domestic violence and housing as separate legal issues with separate legal remedies, Thaler believes, “There is a natural connection between the programs.” Both programs are thrilled to further expand their work ensuring clients receive the in-depth attention they need. Thaler reflected, “It’s easy to focus on your own work, but you need to remember to look up and look around at what your coworkers are accomplishing. It’s important to always be thinking about how you can help each other.”
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