Battered Women Forced to Choose Between Housing and Abuse

Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) is on the frontline where women living with intimate partner violence are placed at risk of injury and even death due to the lack of affordable housing.  In recent times, society has told women to leave abusive relationships and crisis services are in place including 30-day crisis shelters for women and their children.  Now more than ever women are leaving abusive relationships go to transitional housing and are forced back to abusive situations due to the absence of affordable housing when the 30 days are up.  It is unacceptable that women are being forced to choose between housing and abuse while corporations, government and related quasi government officials play pass and the blame game.

Homelessness, for many women, is an initial solution to unsafe housing or homes.  Women leave their homes because of physical and/or sexual violence.   Women are often among the “invisible homeless”, over-represented in shelters and transition houses.  In addition, the lack of affordable housing is a factor that prevents women victims of violence from escaping their abusive partners or contributes to their decision to return. 

“The lack of affordable housing forms a dangerous contributing factor for women and children’s increased victimization.  The vacancy rate in market housing is currently at 1.1% in B.C. and 0.9% in the Vancouver area.   A two bedroom suite rents for $1000.00 per month or more. This is an average figure including suites available for $650.00-$800.00 a month in the basements of large houses where two or three tiny units per house have been marketed. Often these suites are uncared for and not actually large enough for a family to live in.   Many women must apply for money from the Ministry of Housing and Social Development because they have left their homes with nothing. They are then expected to find housing they can afford. With income assistance rates well under the poverty line, a two bedroom apartment in the lower mainland currently renting for upwards of $1000.00 is out of reach.” 

“Having a roof over one’s head is not a privilege, it is a human right. Luck and timing seems to play a role in being able to find housing – A woman should not need luck to find a home!”  Said Tamara, Housing Outreach Worker who works at transition house in the lower mainland.  Tamara also notes “housing waitlists have not decreased in the past two years.”

“Battered women don’t leave abusive partners, they escape.” said Rosa Arteaga, BWSS Manager of Direct Services.  BWSS recognizes that securing housing is a key factor in a battered woman’s decision to escape abuse.  It is unacceptable that all three levels of government have neglected to ensure the construction of low cost housing meets the demand, while at the same time caving to corporate interests, entrenching the SRO housing model and playing the blame game.  All over the province transition house workers have told BWSS that the long wait a woman has to find housing once she leaves violence and comes into a transition house is an immense barrier for choosing not to return to her relationship if her option is homelessness once her stay in a transition house is over.  Every battered woman and her children are entitled to safe, affordable and adequate housing so that they can live free from violence and abuse.

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