The term transitional housing refers to residence programs developed for battered women and their children where they can live for a period of time until they can obtain permanent housing on their own. Domestic violence shelters and safe houses often limit stays to 30–90 days. Transitional housing programs, with stays averaging 18–24 months, bridge the gap between short-term crisis housing and a longer-term permanent housing solution. Without safe affordable housing alternatives, many domestic violence victims stay with their abusers or return to them after staying at a battered women’s shelter.
Housing costs have risen in recent years and now take a larger percentage of household budgets than in the past. Domestic violence survivors leaving shelters are often on public assistance or are employed in low-income jobs. Affordable, decent, and safe housing is usually beyond their grasp for many reasons. Affordable housing may not be located near jobs or public transportation. Women may lack the resources to pay for security and utility deposits. Affordable housing may be substandard and located in unsafe neighborhoods. Battered women may also face discrimination by property owners who prefer not to rent to someone who might attract criminal behavior, such as stalking and violence by the abuser. Because of reductions in federal subsidies for housing, there are often long waiting lists for public and Section 8 housing. The “one strike and you’re out” rules of public housing often put battered women in life-threatening dilemmas regarding calling the police for immediate help and possibly losing their housing.
In response to these issues, domestic violence advocates sought to address the housing needs of domestic violence victims in various federal programs. Funding is now available for both the development of transitional housing programs and assistance grants for victims. The Violence Against Women Act also amended public housing rules to eliminate discrimination against victims of domestic violence.
Transitional housing programs may include apartment complexes built by domestic violence organizations or apartment units or houses scattered across the community or can include designated sites in a domestic violence shelter. Many programs provide individual and group counseling and safety planning to residents. Program rules and regulations often bar batterers from the premises, and women must keep the location confidential to protect their safety as well as the other residents.
The benefits of transitional housing programs are that they provide women safe places to stay while they build their economic self-sufficiency and access to support through peer networks and domestic violence advocates. Transitional housing programs also increase a woman’s safety by keeping her name off official documents such as rent and utilities, thus shielding her from a batterer who might track her down through utility and telephone records.
- Melbin, A., Sullivan, C. M., & Cain, D. (2003). Transitional supportive housing programs: Battered women’s perspectives and recommendations. Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work, 18(4), 445–460.
- Menard, A. (2001). Domestic violence and housing: Key policy and program challenges. Violence Against Women, 7(6), 707–720.
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