From Federal Government to Domestic Violence Resource Clinic (Oh and a Birthday on the side)

29 September 2016

So jet lag may have got a hold of me as I woke up at 4.30am and then got distracted by birthday messages on my phone. Oh and feedback from my last blog! Thanks all. Must admit that putting your thoughts to paper is ndoj-guddyerve racking (you constantly wonder what people are going to think) and I am hoping that this one does not take the best part of 5 hours!

So I spoke to my Mum and Sister for my birthday which set me up for the day. Headed out to meet Peg and went straight to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in central DC to meet with Mary Louise and Rachel who are some of the women responsible at a federal level for putting the funding and consortium in place that I talked about in the last blog.

Mary Louise explained that the way this had happened is that it all sat under the National Strategy to End Homelessness and it was simply a case of adding domestic violence firmly to this agenda under the category of families. They also held national listening sessions to ensure service providers were heard and over 100 took part. From this they were able to take key themes and then work together on putting something together to help remedy the issues.

The people involved in the consortium are HHS, HUD, OVC, OVW, US Inter-agency, NASH, NCRDV, NNEDV and Collaborative Solutions as I explained in the last blog. Furthermore, NNEDV undertook a survey of over 2000 organisations to provide a snap shot of the situation in the US on one day and demonstrated that they help over 70,000 people a day but turn away 10,000.

Mary Louise further advised that they are working hard to expand the definition of ‘Shelter’ in statute to include a plethora of housing options as one size does not fit all. A perfect example of this is Peg’s organisations DASH. They have 42 self-contained units within a property called Cornerstone which provides transitional funding (traditional shelter) but they are also involved in the following as the lovely Shakita explained to me (see picture below)

The National Alliance of Safe Housing which involves both the DC and Washington State DV Coalitions (this also has a research component to it which I will learn more about in Seattle) and the Consortium already described in the last blog. This is their national work in a technical assistance format which consists of supporting other organisations on achieving best practice, producing materials/ toolkits, training and awareness raising.

They then have non-residential programmes which are called the Community Housing Programme (CHPS) and consist of 15 units in the community (scattered) and then community advocacy and maintenance of tenancies, training and the Survivor Resilient Fund (SRF).

The SRF was of particular interest to me as nothing like it exists in the world to my knowledge. The project is funded through philanprophy and can be provided to any women who has experienced domestic or sexual violence and is in need of funds to bridge a gap to stop them becoming homeless. A great example is a woman who was suffering domestic violence, worked full time and was safe to continue to live in her own public housing property. Her main issue was that she needed her car for work in order to pay the rent but needed to replace four tyres which she could not afford. DASH were able to give her these funds therefore stopping her from losing her job so she was able to keep her home. The fund is $100,000 a year and grants are on average $2,500 depending on the need. This project is all about survivor need and frontline staff enjoy the flexibility that comes with it and can see real outcomes immediately for people.

dv-clinic-tansiha-shanika-and-crystal

Tanisha, Crystal, Me and Shakita (DASH)

Then came my Birthday meal at Tico in which I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Lynn Rosenthal the previous Chief Advisor to the White House on Violence Against Women and Alison Randall who worked with her and was responsible for writing a lot of the legislation and strategies. The evening was phenomenal. FULL STOP.

Thursday morning started with a bang as I was able to Skype my amazing family. Then I headed to the Department of Justice to Meet Rosie Hidalgo and Myrta Charles. Wow the breadth of the knowledge is too much to put here but key points:

  • The Violence Against Women fund is 480 million dollars a year. 28 million of this is spent on transitional housing and out of the applications they get they can only fund 29%!
  • They have a specific tribal fund as there are 567 tribes in US where there is a high level of DV/ SV and these communities are extremely isolated.
  • 3 women a day are murdered in the US and DV is responsible for between 30-50% of homelessness. They do have fatality reviews like Domestic Homicide reviews (DHRS) in the UK but these are discretionary by State.
  • The horrific story of Lakisha Briggs who had been served 2 nuisance orders as result of DV and had been told 3 strikes and she was going to be evicted so when her partner brutally assaulted her she was too fearful to call the Police and instead a neighbour did. She was air lifted to hospital with stab wounds and a bitten lip (was lucky not to die) and on returning to her property was served an eviction order! WORDS DO NOT DO JUSTICE AS TO HOW HORRIFIC THIS IS! https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/11/domestic-violence-victim-town-wanted-me-evicted-calling-911

After this bombshell I headed to the US Inter Agency Council to meet Brittani Manzo to get the background of the US Inter Agency Council of Homelessness who is responsible for combatting homelessness on a national level and which the consortium is ultimately part of. The great part of this mechanism is the Inter Agency reports straight to the White House so everything that is happening at the consortium level is fed back and they have got overall oversight of what is happening and therefore clout if is needed to ensure the successful collaboration within the consortium.

Well again another mammoth blog but for my own records I need to keep it like this and if you do the maths it is only 500 words a day really 😉