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2.4: Growing Resources: Connecting Families to Benefits and Services


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2.4: Growing Resources: Connecting Families to Benefits and Services

Presentation by Rachel Natelson.

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2.4: Growing Resources: Connecting Families to Benefits and Services

  1. 1. Access to Benefits for Survivors of Domestic and Sexual Violence Rachel Natelson, Staff Attorney National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty [email_address]
  2. 2. Types of Benefits <ul><li>Housing Assistance: Public Housing </li></ul><ul><li>TANF </li></ul><ul><li>Veterans Benefits </li></ul>
  3. 3. Homelessness and DV <ul><li>Families m ake up 40% of the homeless population </li></ul><ul><li>Typical homeless family is headed by a single mother, usually in her late twenties, with 2 or 3 young children, typically preschoolers </li></ul><ul><li>1 in 4 homeless mothers cite DV as the reason they became homeless </li></ul><ul><li>18% of homeless children lose permanent housing when a custodial parent escapes DV </li></ul>
  4. 4. Violence Against Women Act <ul><li>Findings </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Link between homelessness and domestic violence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Evictions and housing denials of domestic violence victims occurring because of violence against them </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lack of emergency shelter and affordable housing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Financial abuse as part of power and control dynamic </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Purposes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Reduce domestic violence and prevent homelessness </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Protect victim safety in federal housing and shelter </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Build collaboration </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Enable housing providers to respond to domestic violence while maintaining safety for all residents </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Barriers to Housing Access <ul><li>Fears and stereotypes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>criminal activity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>excessive police calls </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>noise and disruption </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>property damage </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>unauthorized residents </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>abuser controls finances and tenant unable to pay rent </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. VAWA: Housing Programs Affected <ul><li>Housing programs affected by 2005 amendments </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Public Housing Program </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Housing Choice Voucher Program </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Project-Based Section 8 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Protections include: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Non-discrimination in admission to housing and termination of assistance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ability to bifurcate, break lease, transfer voucher </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. VAWA Protections: Access to Housing <ul><li>An individual’s status as a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking is not an appropriate basis for denial of admission or denial of housing assistance. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>See 42 U.S.C. §§ 1437d(c)(3); 1437f(c)(9)(A); 1437f(d)(1)(A); 1437f(o)(B) (2006). </li></ul></ul><ul><li>These laws bar PHAs and Section 8 owners from discriminating against housing applicants or tenants. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Eviction and Termination Prohibited <ul><li>VAWA prohibits evictions based on real or perceived domestic violence, dating violence or stalking. </li></ul><ul><li>VAWA RULE: “Incidents of actual or threatened domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking do not qualify as serious or repeated violation of lease or good cause for terminating assistance, tenancy, or occupancy rights of the victim” </li></ul><ul><li>Examples of prohibited causes of eviction under VAWA: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>assault by family member </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>assault by significant other not living in the household </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>damage to apartment during incident of domestic violence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>noise from domestic violence incident </li></ul></ul><ul><li>See 42 U.S.C. §1437d(l)(5); 42 U.S.C. §1437f(c)(9)(B); 42 U.S.C. § 1437f(d)(1)(B)(ii); 42 U.S.C. §1437f(o)(7)(C) </li></ul>
  9. 9. Permissible Causes for Termination <ul><ul><li>Actual and imminent threat: Failure to separate from batterer who is actually dangerous to other tenants/staff (must be a proven danger) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Criminal activity by the survivor not related to domestic violence (drug activity, child abuse) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Failure to pay rent </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Allowing an unauthorized person to live in the household in violation of a lease. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A survivor MAY be evicted for other violations of the lease, but they may not be held to a higher standard than other tenants (or this would be discrimination). </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>See 42 U.S.C. §§ 1437d(l)(5), (6); 1437f(c)(9)(B), (C); 1437f(d)(1)(B), (C); 1437f(o)(7)(C), (D); 1437f(o)(20)(A), (B) (2006). </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Access to Public Assistance <ul><li>Three types of provisions that may be available to survivors of domestic or sexual violence receiving public assistance: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>hardship exemption </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>family violence option </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>child support “good cause” exemption </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Hardship exemption <ul><li>Allows a state to excuse 20% of its welfare recipients from the welfare time limits (the limit on how long a family may receive welfare) for “reason of hardship or if the family includes an individual who has been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty.” </li></ul><ul><li>Federal statutory definition of “battered or subject to extreme cruelty” is not limited to conduct by a family or household member or intimate partner; however, not all states have adopted the federal definition </li></ul><ul><li>To qualify for the hardship exemption a person must reside in a state that has included this provision in its state welfare law. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Family Violence Option <ul><li>Allows states to waive specific rules about work and job training, minimum residency requirements, family cap provisions, and time limits for receiving assistance. </li></ul><ul><li>Federal FVO waiver standard: “where compliance with such requirements would make it more difficult for individuals receiving assistance under this part to escape domestic violence or unfairly penalize such individuals who are or have been victimized by such violence, or individuals who are at risk of further domestic violence.” 42 U.S.C. § 602(a)(7)(A)(iii). </li></ul><ul><li>Some states have adopted the federal standard; others have put in place their own standards for waiving requirements. </li></ul>
  13. 13. State FVO Implementation <ul><li>A majority of states have adopted the federal FVO as part of their welfare laws </li></ul><ul><li>Other states have equivalent policies that enable violence victims to get waivers from some or all TANF requirements </li></ul><ul><li>However, three states (Idaho, Oklahoma, Virginia) have no FVO equivalent policies </li></ul><ul><li>Some states offer waivers only in cases of ongoing violence, while others also provide them to applicants still struggling with the consequences of past abuse </li></ul>
  14. 14. Waiver Requirements <ul><li>Some states require applicants to provide a written statement certifying their status as domestic violence victims </li></ul><ul><li>Other states also recommend that victims submit such additional documentation as police reports and medical records. </li></ul><ul><li>Some require applicants to submit both a statement and documentation in order to be granted a waiver. </li></ul><ul><li>In addition to requiring documentation, many states specify that victims must receive domestic violence services in order to receive a waiver </li></ul>
  15. 15. Child Support Exemption <ul><li>Generally, TANF recipients are required to work with the state agency to collect child support. </li></ul><ul><li>Every state welfare agency, however, can grant a woman a “good cause” exemption if she believes that identifying the father of the children for purposes of child support enforcement will jeopardize her safety. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Benefits for Homelessness Veterans <ul><li>There are currently an estimated 13,100 homeless female veterans in the U.S. </li></ul><ul><li>Women veterans are up to 4 times more likely to be homeless than non-veteran women and male veterans </li></ul><ul><li>Homeless women veterans are more likely to experience severe forms of mental illness than men </li></ul><ul><li>About a quarter of female veterans in the VA’s Homelessness Programs have minor children </li></ul><ul><li>Finding shelters that permit children and offer a safe environment is a primary obstacle for homeless women veterans </li></ul>
  17. 17. Military Sexual Trauma <ul><li>38 U.S.C. 1720D defines MST as “psychological trauma, which in the judgment of a VA mental health professional, resulted from a physical assault of a sexual nature, battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment which occurred while the Veteran was serving on active duty or active duty for training.” </li></ul><ul><li>Sexual harassment is further defined as “repeated, unsolicited verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature which is threatening in character.” </li></ul><ul><li>MST is a strong risk factor for homelessness: 40% of homeless women veterans have reported experiences of sexual assault in the military </li></ul>
  18. 18. Military Sexual Violence: Data <ul><li>While 1 in 6 civilian women experience sexual assault, for military women this number climbs to approximately 1 in 3 </li></ul><ul><li>3,230 military sexual assaults were reported in 2009, which represents an increase of 11% from fiscal year 2008. 163 sexual assaults were reported in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2008 </li></ul><ul><li>79% of women serving in the military since Vietnam reported experiences of sexual harassment </li></ul><ul><li>In a study of a sample of veterans who were seeking VA disability benefits for PTSD, 71% of women and 4% of men reported an in-service sexual assault </li></ul>
  19. 19. MST and VA Disability Benefits <ul><li>According to the VA, a variety of health problems are associated with MST: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>PTSD </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>anxiety disorder </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>depression and other mood disorders </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>substance use disorders </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. MST and VA Disability Benefits <ul><li>If a PTSD claim is based on in-service personal assault, evidence from sources other than the veteran’s service records may corroborate the veteran’s account of the stressor incident. </li></ul><ul><li>Examples of such evidence include: records from law enforcement authorities, rape crisis centers, mental health counseling centers, hospitals, or physicians; pregnancy tests or tests for sexually transmitted diseases; and statements from family members, roommates, fellow service members, or clergy. </li></ul><ul><li>These sources may contain evidence in the form of either witness statements or observation of behavior changes following the claimed assault. </li></ul>