October is recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and with 15% cuts coming across every New York City agency, survivors of this kind of abuse may be put at risk. That’s the concern coming from Nicole Branca, executive director of New Destiny Housing.
The Adams administration announced in September that the cuts are coming to every city agency by April, which could lead to staff-shortages and delays to services. Branca and other providers warn that a slow down in housing support services could force many domestic violence survivors to transition to the shelter system, potentially losing access to specialized services critical to their recovery and increasing the burden on the already overwhelmed shelter system.
Additionally, with the city’s migrant crisis still unfolding, providers have said they worry that there will not be enough beds for domestic violence survivors. “I don't think the administration should be making budget cuts due to a crisis by exacerbating an existing crisis” Branca told New York Nonprofit Media.
”We already have amongst the highest rates of homelessness in the country. Domestic violence is the number one reason for family homelessness in New York City year after year. That's even more than evictions,” Branca added. “A 15% cumulative budget cut and then hiring freezes on top of the already low staffing that a lot of the agencies have experienced because of COVID is very concerning to us.”
According to state regulations, the maximum amount of time any survivor can stay in a domestic violence shelter is 180 days. Since it can be a challenge to find housing within such a timeframe, nearly 40% of families end up being forced to move to another city agency shelter, according to Branca.
City agencies work together to be able to find stable housing for a survivor and their family, from finding an available affordable housing unit, processing section 8 or CityFHEPS vouchers, inspecting housing units to ensure apartments meet safety regulations, to the Human Resources Administration covering rent expenses. With significant delays in these processes, it will leave survivors leaning on an already overburdened shelter system.
“With only so many beds available, we're concerned that people aren't going to be allowed in or be able to find a bed that's available,” said Branca.
Domestic violence shelters provide security, privacy and anonymity to families that need to safely leave their abuser. If at the end of the 180-day time limit they are not able to move into another shelter or find an affordable housing unit, they will be allowed then to remain in their domestic violence shelter, preventing others from escaping their abusers and putting families safety at risk.
“In an ideal world, they wouldn't have to go into the Department of Homeless Services help system, we will have housing for all of our DV families. But since that's not the case, that is absolutely what we expect to see,” Branca said. “These budget cuts will just make that worse by taking out the housing option or making the housing option harder. It's just more families that are going to exit the shelter system with nowhere to go. So it's very, it's very concerning on both the front end and the back end”
According to the Center for Disease Control, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. In New York City, the Bronx has the highest rate of domestic violence rates. During COVID-19, there was a drop in reports of domestic violence, but calls to DV shelter systems had increased sharply.
“The stat that I think isn't reported on enough is that every single day there are 747 calls made to the NYPD on domestic violence,” Branca explained. “And so when I say I'm really concerned about families not being able to leave their abuser because the shelter system is full, that's what I'm talking about. 747 distinct calls each day because of domestic violence. And so we need every possible bed to help those families flee.”