When you think of the homeless population in Florida, would you imagine that many of these people have been victims of domestic abuse? The fact is that domestic violence victims often lose their access to stable housing options because they are worried about their own health and welfare. When a protective order simply is not enough, victims must often flee their residences in order to ensure their own physical safety.
Statistics show that four in five women in the nation’s homeless shelters have been victims of physical abuse from their husbands or partners. Further, almost 60 percent of those women say that a domestic violence complaint was the primary contributor to their homelessness. That fact starkly contrasts with efforts that are targeted toward the homeless population to help them overcome financial hardship. Most homeless-assistance initiatives focus on bankruptcy, job loss and foreclosure, not on the legal aspects of domestic abuse.
As Florida leaders push new initiatives through to address the homeless problem in the state, many fear that women will be left behind. The fact is that homeless men’s issues seem to dominate the public and political discourse, even though many women and their children suffer from homelessness for entirely different reasons. Organizations such as schools, churches and even local governments provide short-term solutions for domestic abuse victims, but few are able to assist in the long-term aftermath of a dispute. Many families are forced into homeless shelters because they have nowhere else to go, even though abuse victims can benefit from other services.
Women and children deserve additional resources and support to help them after the moment they decide to flee from the home of their abuser. These resources can include access to food and shelter, but they can also reach out into the legal realm, as well. Domestic violence victims who have fled their abusers may be eligible for protective orders that can help them address their family issues safely.
Source: Orlando Sentinel, “Domestic violence victims ‘forgotten face’ of homeless, advocates say” Kate Santich, Apr. 28, 2014