Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Uniting to Support Survivors

By Lee Watts

A recent study by Portland’s Volunteers of America – Home Free Program reported that 38% of domestic violence survivors in abusive relationships become homeless, while 46% reported staying in an abusive relationship to avoid becoming homeless.

On October 23rd, United Way of the Columbia-Willamette sought to address this issue and more. They hosted a Survivor Housing Summit, which brought together landlords, homeless service providers, domestic violence service providers and government officials from the four county area to discuss the need for safe and affordable housing for domestic violence survivors.

Planning for the United Way Survivor Housing Summit began two years ago, following a local summit where 130 local community leaders identified housing as one of the largest barriers for survivors seeking safety.  As the Director of SafeChoice Community Services at YWCA Clark County, I had the opportunity to represent Clark County on the Survivor Housing Leadership Team.

The Survivor Housing Summit focused on identifying the barriers survivors currently encounter when attempting to access housing and finding possible solutions to overcome or lessen those barriers. Participants from each county were asked to articulate barriers, identify existing resources, envision a better system and create a plan of action. Clark County participants identified a need for increased collaboration around gaps in services to domestic violence survivors. The group was also able to identify many strengths already in existence in Clark County, including a collaborative network of community partners who meet several times monthly.

I was impressed with the group of committed leaders who came to the summit on behalf of Clark County. We had a lot of challenging, intense and inspiring conversations around funding (or lack thereof), rapid re-housing, coordinated entry, community organizing around gaps in the system, systemic change, and what true collaboration looks like. I’m looking forward to keeping those conversations going. We have a great start. I know that together we can reduce the barriers for survivors seeking safe, affordable housing.

More information on the summit can be accessed through the United Way of the Columbia-Willamette website at www.unitedway-pdx.org or contact Lee Watts at lwatts@ywcaclarkcounty.org.

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