Using the 2017 CoC Competition to Strengthen Connections to Housing for Survivors of Domestic Violence
Community leaders across the country are bringing partners together to ensure that they are leveraging every opportunity to use the 2017 Continuum of Care Program Competition to improve access to housing and service supports for individuals experiencing homelessness. Domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness among families with children, and so it is important for domestic violence service providers to be actively engaged in assessing those opportunities.
This year’s Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) outlines opportunities for CoCs to ensure domestic violence service providers are intentionally engaged in efforts to prevent and end homelessness. Below, you’ll also find additional strategies recommended by our team at USICH. Stronger partnerships across providers and systems can facilitate better access to housing supports and services for survivors seeking assistance and will strengthen communities’ efforts to end homelessness for people who are victims and survivors of trauma.
In the 2017 NOFA, our partners at HUD identified four key ways CoC lead organizations, homelessness services and housing providers, and domestic violence service providers can strengthen their collaboration and partnerships:
Board Participation: HUD encourages CoCs to ensure that victim service providers are involved as voting members of the CoC board, in line with other recommendations to demonstrate a broad array of community-wide partnerships. We also recommend that victim service providers strengthen partnerships by inviting representatives from other CoC-funded organizations to participate on their boards as well.
Training: HUD highlights the opportunity for CoCs and coordinated entry leads to seek training on best practices in serving survivors of domestic violence. This includes cross-training among providers on topics such as: trauma-informed care, landlord engagement, Housing First, housing search services, connections to mainstream services and supports, victim data security concerns, and data security regulations outlined in the Violence Against Women Act, among a variety of other topics. Training resources and technical assistance on these and other topics are also available through the Domestic Violence and Housing Technical Assistance Consortium, which is funded by HUD and the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services.
Statistics and Data: HUD encourages communities to analyze statistics and data on the scope and prevalence of domestic violence as a driver of homelessness within planning processes. HUD-funded and non-HUD-funded domestic violence programs alike should be partners in these processes. Aggregate data from databases that are comparable to HMIS or other non-personally identifiable aggregate data can help homelessness service providers and domestic violence service providers assess the unmet needs and gaps in their community’s programs and resources in order to inform their 2017 CoC application decision-making process.
Safety Planning: In the NOFA, CoCs are encouraged to integrate safety planning protocols into coordinated assessment procedures, which CoCs are required to have operational by January 23, 2018, in accordance with HUD’s Coordinated Entry Notice. Systemically integrating safety planning will ensure that domestic violence service providers, other homelessness services and housing providers, and coordinated entry leads have clear guidance on how they can and should refer between systems to expand access to housing and services for survivors.
We also recommend that CoCs engage domestic violence service providers and advocates that are establishing or improving processes for referrals for services and housing in strengthening point-in-time counts of people experiencing homelessness, and in ensuring that survivors experiencing homelessness are captured in the community’s aggregated data.
Using CoC Planning to Expand Housing Options
Once communities have assessed the scope of unmet housing needs for those fleeing and attempting to flee domestic violence in their community, local organizations should also explore opportunities to use the 2017 CoC Program Competition to expand housing options for survivors, if needed.
The new Joint Transitional Housing and Permanent Housing-Rapid Rehousing Project Component type may be particularly well-suited to survivors of domestic violence, among other specific populations. This project type is structured to ensure that there is capacity for low-barrier, temporary housing for participants that prefer interim housing (due to safety concerns or closer connections to services, among other personal preferences), as well as rapid re-housing, to seamlessly connect participants to permanent housing as soon as they express a desire to pursue such housing.
Employing joint component project models would also allow providers who are currently providing transitional housing for survivors of domestic violence to also offer short- or medium-term rental assistance for households seeking permanent housing. We encourage providers to use this opportunity to explore mechanisms to ensure that, once placed in permanent housing, survivors can maintain access to the services needed to achieve safety and stability in permanent housing. As with previous years, housing providers not currently funded by the CoC program may be able to apply for funding to expand the number of beds, units, or services provided in their program.
Lastly, it’s important to clarify for providers—in both homelessness services and victim service programs—that, HUD’s definition of homelessness includes individuals and families fleeing or attempting to flee domestic violence who lack the resources and support networks to obtain permanent housing on their own. They are eligible for many CoC-funded housing and service projects, including rapid re-housing and joint component projects funded in the FY 2017 Competition.
We know that domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness among families. We hope that your community is taking advantage of the opportunities outlined above to expand access to critical services and supports for individuals and families experiencing homelessness who are impacted by domestic violence.