by Margaret Shuttleworth | City News Service
LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles officials on Wednesday announced a one-year pilot program that will be the first permanent housing program in the city dedicated to survivors of domestic abuse and human trafficking.
“When one in four women and one in seven men will experience intimate partner violence, we cannot ignore the problem,” said City Council President Nuri Martinez, who announced the event outside City Hall.
The Survivors First Program will fund 10 existing LA-based nonprofit agencies that provide shelter and services, as well as provide permanent housing to survivors.
The program is funded through a community development block grant of $5 million through the federal Care Act, and the program’s success will be assessed before being considered for additional years of funding.
The National Housing First Program, which prioritizes permanent housing to help people experiencing homelessness, served as a model for Los Angeles’s Survivors First Program.
“This model has proven to be most effective at ensuring that housing survivors stay put, with 96% of its participants 18 months after participating in the program,” Martinez said.
Survivors First will be managed by the newly created Community Investments for Families Department.
“We are very proud of the program we are announcing today because what it is doing is creating other options and flexibility that organizations need to be able to respond to the wide variety of issues they are facing and Providing services to survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking,” said Abigail Marquez, General Manager of Community Investments for Families.
According to Martinez, the largest sub-population of people who experience homelessness are domestic violence survivors, with 40% of Los Angeles’ homeless population experiencing domestic violence. The number of women experiencing homelessness is even greater.
“Homelessness and domestic violence are intricately linked. (domestic violence) is the main cause of homelessness for women. Studies show that about 57% of all homeless women attribute their immediate cause of homelessness to domestic violence. Survivors often must choose between living in an abusive home or becoming homeless, said Elizabeth Eastland, executive director of Rainbow Services.
She said domestic violence shelters are often the safest places for survivors, but there isn’t enough capacity to meet Los Angeles’ demand.
Reports of domestic violence in Los Angeles increased as people sought refuge at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Los Angeles Police Department receiving a 12.7% increase in domestic violence-related calls compared to prior to March 2020.
According to data compiled by Crosstown — a non-profit news organization based at the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism — calls for domestic violence began to rise two days after the shutdown orders in Los Angeles. The city created Project Safe Haven during the pandemic, which used $6 million to serve 3,000 Angelenos suffering domestic violence, essentially tripling the number of domestic violence and human trafficking beds in LA County.
Nikki Brown spoke with Martinez and Marquez on Wednesday. Brown lived with the abuser for a decade and fled to a homeless shelter, not a domestic violence shelter. She said she hopes the initiative will allow more survivors to be placed in domestic violence shelters, which have confidential spaces and wraparound services. He said Rainbow Services, one of the agencies funded by the Survivors First Program, helped him get back on his feet.
“The tears I felt when I was told in Rainbow, ‘We’ll help you. We’ll go looking for an apartment with you. We’ll support you in paying for the first, last, and security I have’ There was no money.’ — I couldn’t believe someone would do this for me, and I’m so excited that more women will have that moment,” Brown said.
Victims of domestic violence can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or Rainbow Services’ 24-hour legal hotline at 310-547-9343.