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Report: Domestic Violence Leading Cause of Homelessness in NYC

Comptroller Stringer's report shows domestic violence accounted for 41% of the family population entering shelters
Photo: Pixabay

A new report released today by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer today found that, in 2018, domestic violence accounted for 41 percent of the family population entering shelter — the single largest cause of homelessness and a 44 percent increase in five years.

Neighborhoods in the Bronx and Brooklyn accounted for the most DHS shelter entries due to domestic violence between FY 2014 and FY 2018, with 38 percent of survivors having previously resided in the Bronx and 30 percent entering shelter from Brooklyn.

The report also found that the use of costly commercial hotels for families entering shelter due to domestic violence skyrocketed between FY 2014 and FY 2018, with 21 percent of families placed in hotels, up from less than 1 percent. And over 7,000 children entered a DHS shelter as a result of domestic violence, more than half (56 percent) of whom were under 6 years of age.

"Every year, thousands of domestic violence survivors are pushed to the brink, experience homelessness, and have no way of finding a stable home for themselves and their children. It's a tragedy — but we cannot accept this status quo as just the way things are. We must do more to lift up survivors who need a City government as their unwavering ally," said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer.

During Domestic Violence Awareness Month, to address this growing challenge, the comptroller is calling on the City to pursue a series of targeted  policy recommendations aimed at connecting domestic violence survivors to permanent housing and preventing extended periods of homelessness.

Some of the recommendations include:

Expanding residential and non-residential services

  • The City should also work with the State to extend the 180-day time limit in DV shelter on a case-by-case basis, and the City should ensure every domestic violence shelter has dedicated housing specialists.
  • New York City must expand access to mental health support and dedicate supportive housing units and affordable housing for domestic violence survivors.

Strengthening legal protections

  • New York City should explore ways to reinforce its housing anti-discrimination policies, including by explicitly prohibiting landlords and brokers from refusing tenancy based on criminal history or a low credit score stemming from a prospective tenant's identity as a survivor of domestic violence.
  • The State should amend the Public Service Law to assist survivors who have recently fled an abusive living situation to ensure continuation or restoration of utility service.

Increasing financial assistance to support survivors' access to housing

  • The City should develop a survivor housing stability fund for survivors regardless of immigration status and income.
  • The City should increase the availability of free and reduced-cost legal services for survivors.
  • To combat the shortage of affordable housing in the city and to reverse the rise in the number of people experiencing homelessness, the City should triple the number of affordable housing units, as Comptroller Stringer called for last year, and set aside 15 percent of it for homeless New Yorkers on an annual basis, so that the New Yorkers in greatest need have access to stable, permanent housing.

 "As a City, we are judged by how we treat our most vulnerable, which is why it's time to step up and act. No family that has entered a domestic violence shelter should ever leave without access to stable housing or find themselves placed in a commercial hotel," Stringer said. "It is not enough to say we support survivors — we need to put our money where our mouth is and implement bold reforms to actually provide survivors with the support they need to achieve long-term housing and economic independence."
To read Comptroller Stringer's full report on domestic violence and homelessness, click here.