Housing Options for Survivors
Housing issues are a frequent worry shared by victims of abuse. It is common for survivors to experience financial abuse and have their credit negatively impacted. This can make leaving the relationship or finding new housing tough. Seeking shelter is not always an option, but many people are not aware of what other housing resources are available or how to access them. Whether a survivor wants the abusive partner to leave, or they want to leave themselves; housing support is out there.
When shelter isn’t an option
It’s often believed that going to a shelter is the best way for a survivor to escape abuse and find a safer place. However, seeking shelter is not always best for some people, and there can be challenges in going to a shelter. Reasons a shelter may not work are:
- The shelter is at capacity and cannot accommodate more people
- The shelter may not have space for children, especially older ones. The survivor may also fear a CPS report being made if they take their children
- The shelter may not allow pets
- A shelter may have specific rules about going back and forth to work
- A survivor may feel uncomfortable in a shelter
- A survivor can possibly only stay at the shelter for a specific period of time, which can be a challenge if the survivor is struggling to find new housing
Each shelter has different requirements and rules, so it is important to ask the shelter questions to make sure it fits your needs.
Having an abusive partner removed from the home
For many survivors, leaving their home is not an option. They may own the home, be the one who is paying bills or find it unfair that they must leave when they are experiencing abuse. They may want to have the abusive partner removed from the house.
If a survivor wants to remove their partner, they need to consider squatters’ rights. Squatters’ rights can be used by a partner who is abusive to claim they can live in the home or apartment even if their name is not on any paperwork. These rights vary from state to state, but squatters’ rights usually apply when:
- The property is personal
- They live on that property exclusively
- They live on the property long enough to meet the state’s requirement to be recognized as a squatter (rather than a trespasser)
- The rightful owner of the property does not try to evict them or remove them within that specific length of time.
Filing a protective order (PO) can sometimes be an option for having a partner who causes harm removed. However, when a protection order is granted, it has to be served to the person. Some locations will not serve a protection order when the abuser is living with the victim. It is important to note that in some states a PO does not guarantee the removal of the abusive partner from the home.
Speaking with a legal advocate in your area is very helpful to find out if your partner is protected under squatters’ rights. They can also tell you if a PO will be effective or what other steps can be taken to remove them.
While some survivors of domestic violence want their abusive partner to leave, others may want to find their own place to live. Resources that can help include transitional housing, housing tax credits, or financial aid.
Transitional housing is temporary housing assistance that can last from a couple weeks to a few years. Transitional housing is different in each state and their requirements to qualify may vary. The goal for this program is to aid those affected by abuse, trauma, or addiction, by giving them a chance to rebuild their lives. Though temporary, this can be helpful for survivors who want their own place to live but need help for a period of time.
One challenge many survivors face when needing housing support is finding the programs. Sites like Transitionalhousing.org or 211.org can help survivors find resources that are in their area. Our advocates are also available 24/7 to offer insight and guidance.
Federal financial aid
Another form of housing assistance survivors may qualify for is governmental aid. Low-Income Tax Credit Housing (LIHTC) is one option. This is affordable housing overseen by the IRS where residents pay lower rents. This happens because the developers of these communities received private investment dollars for the construction of the properties in exchange for federal tax credits.
Section 8 housing is a program subsidized by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Residents pay what they can afford (typically 30% of their monthly adjusted income) and HUD will then pay the difference between that amount and what a unit typically rents for. Both LIHTC and Section 8 housing have income limits, so it is important to speak with a housing specialist to see if you qualify. Once you are approved, speaking with a local apartment finder can be helpful to find properties that are LIHTC or Section 8 housing.
Other financial aid
One other option that could help survivors with housing is direct financial aid. Some DV programs or other agencies offer direct financial assistance to survivors, which can be used however they need. Although the amounts given do vary, a survivor could potentially use these funds as a security deposit for a new place or to pay rent.
Finding housing support is a vital part of living a life that is free from abuse. Whether you live with an abusive partner and are exploring options, or have left and need housing support, our advocates are available 24/7 through phone, text, or chat. You are not alone.