Serving Survivors of Domestic Violence with Rapid Re-Housing

Lisa Tepper Bates, Executive Director

Kris Billhardt provided a great presentation at the 2016 Annual National Alliance to End Homelessness conference on serving Domestic Violence (DV) survivors with rapid re-housing (RRH). Former director of Volunteers of America in Multnomah County, Oregon, and current principal of her own consulting firm, Kris has worked in the domestic violence movement for over 30 years. Kris is a pioneer in finding housing solutions that meet the needs of DV survivors experiencing homelessness. And she has found over her many years of experience that housing solutions are central – not tangential – to helping DV survivors. Increased housing stability is a significant predictor of improvements for DV survivors in many areas of life:

  • Increased safety, decreased vulnerability to abuse

  • Lower levels of PTSD and depression

  • Higher quality of life

  • Increased ability to sustain employment

  • Improvements in children’s outcomes

Rapid Re-Housing, Kris said, is a good fit with DV services: RRH is participant-directed with no pre-conditions, and by definition should offer services and supports tailored to a specific client’s needs. All these elements of the RRH approach are consistent with best practices in supporting DV survivors. Person-centered safety planning is critical, of course, for DV survivors in RRH.

Kris also noted that – if a DV agency is seeking the housing placement on behalf of a client, that agency should be aware that this can be a give-away regarding the client’s DV experience. For that reason, she said, partnerships with non-DV-specific homeless providers offer a helpful option with regard to housing placements to help maintain the confidentiality of a client’s situation.

Partnerships between DV and homeless providers are key – for both types of providers, she said. When DV and homeless providers work together, everyone benefits. When these two groups work together well, they can better cooperate to meet the housing needs of DV survivors, and to provide the right support for clients experiencing homelessness who have also experienced DV.

As with all RRH, connecting DV survivors in RRH to the other community services and supports they need – including DV services – is key to success. Planning with DV survivors to help activate (or re-activate) their natural supports in the community is particularly critical, since the DV situation they’ve lived in may have resulted in isolating them from these supports.