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VAWA & Homelessness in New Orleans

Posted on 05. Jun, 2012 by

Last week we sent a message to our supporters explaining how recent reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, protected some women while exposing others. In our view, the law should protect all women.

In New Orleans, this is now more important than ever.  Unity of Greater New Orleans recently released its “Point in Time” count statistics, a comprehensive count of how many persons are homeless on a given night.  This year, the count was conducted the night of January 23rd.

On that night, like many others, 1,090 women in New Orleans were homeless.  While women in New Orleans make up only 22% of the homeless population—consistent with national averages—women and transgendered individuals here and nationwide experience unique risks and vulnerabilities.  Specifically, these risks include assault and sexual violence.

Domestic violence is often a contributing factor that leads to homelessness for the 1,090 homeless women in New Orleans on any given night, in part because survivors of domestic violence and their children can lose their homes when they flee abuse.  In addition, many domestic violence survivors become homeless when they are wrongfully evicted as a result of the violence against them, including 37% of evictions from federally funded housing in a 2005 survey. [1]

Although current law should protect women from such evictions, surveys from just a few years ago of homeless women found that evictions still occur because of an incident of domestic violence.  Survivors are also likely to face homelessness because they are isolated from financial and support networks by their abusers, which also contributes to a lack of steady income, employment or landlord history.

In New Orleans, Unity’s Point in Time statistics indicate that of those women who indicated they were survivors of domestic violence, 69% were unsheltered, with 8% living on the street and 61% living in abandoned buildings.  The remaining 31% were in emergency shelter (10%) or transitional housing (21%).

Domestic and sexual violence violate women’s rights to physical integrity and all too often, to life itself.  Last week, we pointed out that the House version of the VAWA reauthorization bill devalues all women and girls by furthering power dynamics that enable violence against gay, transgender, Native, and undocumented women in particular.  Unity’s Point in Time statistics also make a clear case that domestic violence is connected to homelessness for women in New Orleans. VAWA hasn’t solved all of the challenges that survivors of domestic and sexual violence face, but now is the time to beef up, not roll back, on protections for all women.

One Response to “VAWA & Homelessness in New Orleans”

  1. Monika Gerhart 8 June 2012 at 2:23 pm #

    Good news in the U.S. House yesterday as the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Affairs (T-HUD) marked up their spending bill at pretty good levels— came in a little bit lower than FY 12, but above the President’s FY 13 budget request for all HUD programs. Download pdf at