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Monday, June 2, 2008

Authority will help battered women

Housing priorities retooled


By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff
NEW HAVEN
— Waiting lists for public housing currently stretch as long as six months here and in many cities across the country, a duration that must seem like an eternity for a victim of domestic violence housed at a 60-day emergency shelter.
It’s sad arithmetic that has driven countless abused women back into the homes of their batterers.
But the Housing Authority of New Haven is working to change that equation here, enacting a new policy to give priority to getting victims of domestic violence into available housing.
More recently, the Housing Authority reaffirmed that commitment.
Already, a stalked woman who had been wait-listed for public housing submitted a police report and was placed in a home in under a month, Housing Authority Executive Director Jimmy Miller said.
“The ability to access public housing can make a big difference in the ability for a woman to leave and remain separated from an abuser,” federal Office on Violence Against Women Director Cindy Dyer said.
“It’s very difficult to find a job if you don’t have a house. If you don’t have a house, your chances of losing custody of your children are very much increased,” Dyer noted.
According to the 2005 federal Violence Against Women Act, the average stay at an emergency shelter is 60 days, while it takes a homeless family an average of six to 10 months to secure housing.
“Victims of domestic violence often return to abusive partners because they cannot find long-term housing,” according to the act, which legislates protection for victims of domestic violence and provides federal funding to entities that provide transitional housing for victims.
The Housing Authority has not sought federal funding through VAWA in the past, but Miller said he plans to research the possibility of obtaining future funding.
Local domestic violence service groups lauded the effort.
“The lack of safe and stable housing can be a real barrier for women who want to leave abusive relationships, especially when there are children involved,” said Cheryl Burack, executive director of the New Haven-based Coordinating Council for Children in Crisis Inc.
The agency works to prevent abuse, providing home visits, outreach, parenting education, counseling and many other services.
Domestic Violence Services of Greater New Haven Executive Director Sandra Koorejian said she sees 50 to 60 families each year at her shelter, and thousands of victims each year in local courts.
“They are staying everywhere…in shelters, with relatives, staying in cars. Some are in homes, but they are not safe at home, so they need to leave,” she said.
But, “most people want to stay in the area where they grew up and where their kids are going to school. They don’t really want to just pack their bags and start a life somewhere else.
“It’s particularly difficult for the children to go through that kind of disruption. To have an opportunity where you can stay where you support system is and try to have a stable life is something I think most of them would jump at,” she said.
Elizabeth Benton can be reached at 789-5714 or ebenton@nhregister.com.

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