Planes, Trains and Automobiles – Washington DC

27 September 2016

So it has begun. The mixture of nerves, anticipation, dread of the unknown, feeling sad leaving my extraordinary family and friends and excitement is almost too much to put in to words. However my adventure began as soon as I got on the plane as I found myself next to the European Bureau Chief for The China Times Group who was on her way to Washington DC to start a new job as their lead covering the election. She took an interest in my work and a trip to China might be on the cards! So please people…. talking to people on public transport is not so mad after all!

I arrived in DC at 1.50pm, the shuttle to the airport is interesting and something ‘Doc’ from Back to the Future would be proud to have invented! I made it through customs in record timing (30 minutes) and before I knew it I was hurtling towards my first meeting In Central DC.

My host for this week is the formidable Peg Hacskaylo who I had the privilege of  meeting in the Hague at the Global Network of Women’s Shelter where we were both speaking on domestic abuse and housing and began plotting what would turn out to be this fellowship along with Cris Sullivan who I will blog about during my visit to Seattle!

I arrived at the offices that house the national Domestic Violence Hotline, made it up to the right floor and announced loudly as there was no one around that Guddy from London was here. Peg came strolling around the corner and in that moment all my nerves disappeared. Peg had arranged for me to meet two amazing women, Shaina and Anne who work for the National Resource Centre for Domestic Violence (NRCDV) and it was not long before we were talking at the rate of knots.

Key points from our conversation:

  1. Statistics:

USA:

72% of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner; 94% of the victims of these murder suicides are female.

UK:

On average 2 women a week are murdered by a current or former partner

  1. Domestic Violence Technical Assistance Consortium 

Excitingly, three federal agencies have joined forces in the US including the Department of Justice (DOJ), Housing Urban Development (HUD) and Health and Human Services (HHS) to make vital links between homelessness and domestic abuse (DA) and Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). This had led to the formation of a the Domestic Violence Technical Assistance Consortium in November 2015. This is a just one year after the launch of the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA) with one main difference more FUNDING which has been provided across government departments.

This consortium is a partnership between the National Alliance of Safe Housing (NASH), National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), National Resource Centre for Domestic Violence (NRCDV) and Collaborative Solutions and their aim has much synergy with DAHA in that they want to improve the housing sector response to domestic abuse nationally by disseminating best practice through their existing networks and joining up the work of the homelessness and Violence Against Women’s and Girl’s (VAWG) sectors. They also play a vital role in lobbying and campaigning and they seem well positioned to do so as this amazing picture of Peg with Michelle Obama demonstrates! This quickly led me to saying that we need to implement a hash tag on social media to join up our work which I’m pleased to announce is #DAhousing.peg-and-michelle-obama

So I left the meeting with my head spinning and a rumbling tummy so headed to my amazing BnB apartment to drop of my 24kg case and head for the best steak I have ever had! (High praise indeed if you know me!)

The next morning I headed to DASH headquarters with Peg and got an amazing tour of their 42 (self contained) unit shelter with a gym, play rooms for the children and cooking classes. Oh and a rooftop which I couldn’t resist taking a Selfie on 😉Roof top selfie!

I then got to meet the whole staff team (totally by chance) as we headed to the laundry room, heard them chatting so gate crashed their training (the trainer was late). The warmth from strangers on this trip is just phenomenal and so heart-warming.

I then went on to a planned meeting with Suzanne and Larisa Kofman who work directly for Peg at DASH (@DASHDC).This meeting was perhaps the most in depth tutelage of funding for housing and domestic abuse initiatives in the US that I will ever have and I will not bore you with the technical details here but it is the same ongoing issue in that the funding comes from a number of streams which essentially can make it hard to access, not joined up and therefore a post code lottery of services. A real opportunity to me seems to be to join this up much more like they have in the implementation of the consortium in both the US and UK. (see above) suzanne-larisa-and-guddy-dash

Next stop was the DC Coalition of Domestic Violence  to meet Debbie Fox and Erin Larking in which we discussed the issues with funding cuts to transitional housing, the role of HUD and various initiatives including Housing First. They were able to inform me that Domestic Violence is the direct cause of homelessness for over half of all homeless women in the US and according to HUD domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness among families. In the UK domestic abuse is also a leading cause of homelessness and this is highlighted in the domestic abuse and homelessness supplementary guidance. However data in the UK on this subject is not comprehensive which is a huge problem that DAHA is working to remedy.

Further research of interest in UK:

http://solacewomensaid.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/SWA-Finding-Costs-of-Freedom-Report.pdf

http://rebuildingshatteredlives.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Rebuilding-Shattered-Lives_Final-Report.pdf

http://solacewomensaid.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Solace-Womens-Aid-housing-report_The-price-of-safety_Mar16.pdf

I am giving a lot of background in this blog to provide a solid background of the situation in UK and USA and further emerging themes will come out as I go along.

I have to stop now and those that have read to the end I take my hat off to you!