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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: October 1, 2019 12:15 PM
From: Senator Vincent J. Hughes
To: All Senate members
Subject: SAFE Housing Trust Fund
As we begin our observance of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we must acknowledge the adversities victims face when leaving abusive and dangerous situations, which can be made worse when safe and affordable housing is unavailable. This is why I plan to introduce legislation to create a housing trust fund that will benefit victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, human trafficking and stalking.

The “Survivor-centered, accessible, fair and empowering” (SAFE) Housing Trust Fund will provide much needed funding to increase resources to domestic violence programs, transitional housing programs and permanent housing solutions to better respond to the needs of these victims and survivors. We need to support these strong individuals with real means to leave dangerous situations and ensure they do not end up homeless.

The intersection of homelessness and intimate partner violence is well documented. According to a national survey, 92% of homeless women report having experienced severe physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives. Upwards of 50% of all homeless women report that domestic violence was the immediate cause of their homelessness. Multiple studies report that more than 80% of homeless mothers with children were survivors of intimate partner violence. A nationwide study of residents in domestic violence shelters found that 84% of survivors needed help finding affordable housing.

In 2017 the National Network to End Domestic Violence found that in just one 24-hour period, almost 7,500 nationwide requests for shelter and housing went unmet. In Philadelphia, according to Women Against Abuse (WAA), approximately 10,000 individuals seeking emergency housing are turned away annually because WAA’s 200 safe haven beds - the only shelter beds available for survivors of domestic violence in Philadelphia - are full. Victims should not have to face the impossible choice of staying with their abusers or becoming homeless because they cannot find safe housing.

There is another alarming connection between abuse, homelessness and human trafficking, especially among young people (ages 13 - 25). Nearly 72% of homeless youth reported experiencing physical or sexual abuse at some point in their lives. These young people are especially vulnerable to human trafficking and sexual victimization due to the lack of safe harbors. Housing is at the forefront of their needs; however, 53% reported being unable to enter a shelter because it was full.

Advocates continuously identify housing as a primary need and a critical component in the long-term safety and stability of these survivors. Survivors and victims of abuse already face many economic, employment, transportation, and child-care challenges - finding housing should not be one of them.

Please join me in sponsoring this important legislation.

If you have any questions, please contact Veronica Miller in my office.

Introduced as SB913