Forty days and forty nights in another woman’s shoes can put a blister on your heel that makes you want to sit down and never walk again. She’s too tired to sleep and too broken to know where to start picking up the pieces, but she keeps moving because to do otherwise would be deadly. This is not fiction. It is reality. Here at home, on our watch, an urban, suburban, rural, cross-cultural, multi-generational population across America is experiencing homelessness at an alarming rate.
In just one day in 2015, over 31,500 adults and children fleeing domestic violence found refuge in a domestic violence emergency shelter or transitional housing program.
- That same day, domestic violence programs were unable to meet over 12,197 requests for services because of a lack of funding, staffing, or other resources.
- Sixty-three percent (7,728) of unmet requests were for housing. Emergency shelter and transitional housing continue to be the most urgent unmet needs for domestic violence survivors.
Source: National Network to End Domestic Violence. (2016). Domestic Violence Counts 2015-A 24-hour census of domestic violence shelters and services. Washington, DC.
This is unconscionable. This is unacceptable. This is my job. Each day for the last forty days, I have been trying to wrap my head around all of the moving parts of the juggernaut that seems to have bumfuzzled us to the tune of billions of dollars over the span of decades. Non-profit agencies and faith-based organizations dedicated to serving the needs of individuals and families in chronic crisis are tasked with stretching every dollar with Herculean strength while gently tip-toeing through a public health minefield.
Slogans and good intentions are not enough to make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring in our communities. We need better tools, clearly defined and manageable objectives, and money. Lots of money.
Stewardship is a word that gets a lot of air time in the non-profit sector, where the line of people in need of assistance is longer than the cue for Space Mountain. Grant makers, government grants in particular, require non-profits to disperse cash on hand up front and submit supporting documentation for review and approval before being reimbursed. This is one reason why those who donate faithfully to the charity of their choice are highly valued by direct service providers. WE LOVE SMALL DONATIONS MOST OF ALL should be stamped on the letterhead of every non-profit that relies on individual donors to keep the lights on.
These are the things one thinks about at 2a.m. when revenue generation is part of their job description. Staff development, board engagement, community involvement, partner agency collaboration, and that overarching performance measurement – a single success story duplicated client after client, program after program, year after budget-wrenching year – make up the sum total of my thoughts these days. It is an honor and privilege to serve. I leave you with this:
In 2014, Family Violence Prevention and Services grantees reported 196,467 unmet requests for shelter—a 13% increase over those reported in 2010. This represents a count of the number of unmet requests for shelter due to programs being at capacity.
Source: Family Violence Prevention & Services Program, Family & Youth Services Bureau. (2015). Domestic Violence Services Provided by State and Tribal Grantees. Washington, DC.
The need for safe housing and the economic resources to maintain safe housing are two of the most pressing concerns among abused women who are planning to or have recently left abusers.
Source: Clough, A., Draughon, J. E., Njie-Carr, V., Rollins, C., & Glass, N. (2014).
“Having housing made everything else possible”: Affordable, safe and stable housing for women survivors of violence. Qualitative Social Work, 13(5), 671-688.
P.S. If you support an agency that serves individuals and families experiencing or at risk of homelessness, thank you. We cannot succeed without you.