The increase in incidents of domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic is well documented and widely reported. Even before the pandemic hit, domestic violence survivors in New Jersey long faced a critical need for safe housing. Now, according to a new Rutgers study published in the journal Violence Against Women, COVID-19 has compounded this need leaving many survivors of domestic violence choosing between feeding their children, safe housing, transportation and childcare. Short and long-term rental assistance is critical to closing this gap for survivors to reduce the risk of future violence and to attain stability and self-sufficiency.
Safe+Sound Somerset’s Domestic Violence Housing First (DVHF) Program was launched this summer in response to closing this housing gap. The program, based on the nationally recognized Domestic Violence Housing First model, is rooted in the principles of survivor self-determination and trauma-informed programming. The services are designed to help survivors attain housing stability through emergency financial assistance or access to flexible funding that can be used for housing related expenses. Survivor-driven housing advocacy, safety planning and financial literacy support are the foundational supports of program. Through partnerships with landlords, building management companies and culturally specific organizations in our community, S+SS DVHF program works to serve survivors with few resources and high needs.
Within the first month of operation, the S+SS DVHF has supported three survivors in securing safe housing and a path to self-sufficiency and stability through the 6-month timeframe of the program. Continued coaching through our Financial Empowerment Center will support survivors in acquiring budgeting and other skills to achieve their short- and long-term goals. These three survivors are great examples of the difference that support and empowerment through S+SS can make, and we look forward to partnering with many more survivors to achieve long-term housing and independent lives, free from abuse.
Survivors of domestic abuse with a need for housing may be eligible for S+SS’s DVHF services and access to the flexible housing assistance fund. In addition to rent, survivors may be eligible for reimbursement for costs related to relocation including, but not limited to, moving expenses, transportation, childcare, utilities and changing locks. Funding for rental assistance is based on a tiered model, the survivor’s current budget, and the rental Fair Market Value for Somerset County. Other support offered through the DVHF program include budgeting, credit history sustainability, individual and family financial management, landlord advocacy, housing readiness, and community partnership advocacy and linkage.
To determine eligibility, survivors are referred to S+SS’s Financial Empowerment Center to complete a comprehensive intake. Staff provide ongoing safety planning and risk assessment to survivors, which are critical during periods of transition. S+SS’s full complement of services are available to survivors participating in DVHF, including financial empowerment such as budgeting, education assistance, and career readiness; legal advocacy; family advocacy; and individual and group counseling. Survivors or service providers in need of more information should contact our hotline at 866-685-1122.
Safe+Sound Somerset is the only private, non-profit organization in Somerset County providing comprehensive services to survivors of domestic abuse and their families. Our trauma-informed, evidence-based programs are designed to support and empower survivors and their families. Established in 1978, S+SS has continually expanded, offering a comprehensive range of services for survivors while working towards ending intimate partner violence and domestic abuse once and for all. Services are provided free of charge, in a confidential and culturally sensitive environment.
For help or to request additional information about Safe+Sound Somerset’s services, call or text our 24/7 confidential hotline at 866-685-1122. Additional information available at www.safe-sound.org.