The Windy City, The Shriver Centre, Stakeholder Roundtable

6 October 2016

So leaving Washington DC was emotional. I am not too proud to say I shed a tear. It’s hard to put in to words what this trip feels like for me being surrounded by so many amazing people that share my world view and passion. It is so humbling.

I landed in Chicago and taxied to my new Air BnB. Not as glamorous as my last place I can tell you. The electrical arrangements scare me quite frankly. Pictures can be deceiving and there were no instructions for Wi-Fi. Guddy without what’s app. Arggghhhhh!

Anyway I settled in and made myself some tuna pasta! And before I knew it the next day I was heading down town for a roundtable meeting with 20 other professionals from The Shriver Centre, NNEDV, Metropolitan Family Services, Legal Assistance Foundation, Family Rescue, Chicago Housing Authority, Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network (CMBWN) and HUD to talk domestic violence and housing. Kate Walz my mind blowing host advised the whole group that this was the first group of its kind in Chicago. I felt so lucky to have been the catalyst for this.


I gave a background to my work (I have got this down to a 5 minute elevator pitch), we then heard about differing housing models and advocates experiences and agreed next steps.

The three models we discussed were:

  1. HUD multi-family transfer program – this is headed up by Sylva Davies and if someone is suffering DA it is reported to them and they try and facilitate an emergency transfer using their networks of landlords. There is a team of 4 and since January 2014 they have moved 19/20 families. However they advised they have some friendly landlords and others that do not even want to be involved as of the stigma attached to Domestic Violence (DV).
  2. Chicago Housing Authority Public Housing Transfer Program – reports of DV come through their Victim Assessment Department who utilise trauma informed therapy, assess a person is on a life threatening situation with similar thresholds of evidence that we have in the UK and then move via an emergency transfer.
  3. Chicago Housing Authority HCV Program allows low-income families to rent quality housing in the private market via federal funds provided HUD. Through this program, CHA pays a portion of eligible families’ rent each month directly to the landlord. If there is DV a person can request Emergency Moving Papers however this can be complicated if two people live together as they both want to keep the rights to vouchers!


So the group agreed that a number of next steps needed to be taken including:

  • Training
  • Guidance and flowchart for housing and DV advocates on options to make this clearer
  • Somewhere central to keep this – Website
  • Access big players to get access to more housing/ landlords
  • More data to inform practice and funding
  • Join up processes (referral pathways, co-locations, one stop shop/ clinic, single point t of contact)
  • Funding for collaboration
  • Employ a Housing Co-ordinator (like we have in the tri borough in London through Standing Together Against Domestic Violence)
  • Regular working group meetings

I am so excited and proud of the outcomes of this roundtable and cannot wait to hear updates form Kate and via Twitter on #DAHousing

The end of the meeting was nicely summarised by Sylvia (HUD) who advised that what inspired her work was a conversation she had with a woman that she did not know on public transport who disclosed she had suffered domestic abuse for 30 years and said she did not leave as did not know where to go. This made Sylvia swear she would try her best to support women to access housing options. I wish more people in housing understood this instead of judging and asking the question ‘Why doesn’t she leave?’ There are many reasons a person cannot or feels unable to leave. The main one being that the perpetrator will often say that he will kill her or her family if she tries to leave. This is not a threat it is a reality as statistics show you are most of risk of being killed when you leave or try and separate so therefore you need support and guidance to do this safely. Furthermore, the real question we should be asking is ‘Why doesn’t he stop?’ Perpetrators of abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, mental, financial and psychological) are accountable for their actions. And there is NO excuse.

Gudrun Burnet
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