When bravely leaving an abuser, domestic violence survivors have many fears on their minds.
“It was like a six-year relationship and nothing but, you know, the domestic violence,” said a mom named Jennifer, who wanted to leave her last name out.
Jennifer was never allowed to handle money and sustained financial abuse.
“I was never allowed to say where I wanted to live. I wasn’t even allowed to go pick out my own groceries. It was all up to him,” she said.
Jennifer said she did not realize domestic violence wasn’t just physical. She has now learned it’s financial, emotional, mental, and sexual, too.
Jennifer and her three sons have been in the Battered Women and Children’s Shelter for a year and are finally thriving despite the trauma.
The Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV) is a nonprofit coalition in Texas dedicated solely to creating safer communities and freedom from family violence. Its annual report consists of hundreds of interviews with abuse survivors.
“Many have been homeless once, many more than once, which indicates a need for housing stability,” said Molly Voyles, TCFV’s director of public policy.
Many survivors said finding shelter and housing has been impossible. The report showed that 39% of survivors surveyed across Texas had been denied shelter solely due to a lack of space and capacity.
Thankfully, San Antonio is in a rare situation. The local shelter does not deny anyone because of space. If space is needed, they’ll make some.
Housing, however, is an entirely different issue.
“When the moratorium was lifted on eviction, oh, my goodness,” said Leslie Shultz with Family Violence Prevention Services, which runs the Battered Women and Children’s Shelter.
Schultz leads one of the three programs for housing. Two are rapid re-housing, which can help locate available apartments and get applications approved within two to five weeks.
The third program is called transitional housing, which is a slower transition to independent housing for clients who may want more time getting services before moving out on their own.
The pandemic and the lifting of the eviction moratoriums created an even greater need for housing.
The current Housing and Urban Development grant can only fund so many survivors to live 12 months rent-free.
“With rental prices going up, fair market rent going up, it has been a little bit more challenging,” Schultz said.
Luckily, Schultz works with a handful of property owners who keep rent low and share their mission of providing safe, affordable housing for survivors and their families.
Those relationships are important because many clients have to relocate again when their abuser finds out where they live.
“We have had to relocate several of the clients that have participated in our rapid rehousing program because the perpetrator has found them,” Schultz said.
The clients who are able to participate in the FVPS housing programs can choose wherever they want to live.
“Oftentimes, it’s near where they work or where their children are enrolled in school. We look at fair market rent, and then we have a calculation from HUD on rent reasonableness. So it needs to fall within both of those. We do all of the housing inspections to ensure that it meets the criteria of HUD,” Schultz said.
She said many clients choose apartments that are even below fair market rent prices so that they can be sure after the 12 months is up, they can sustain their own living situation.
If the shelter cannot find housing for the client, other entities coordinate with the shelter to help that client find somewhere to live.
Homelink is Bexar County’s local Coordinated Entry System – combining community-wide organizations to connect persons who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness to housing resources.
Domestic violence survivors, veterans and young adults are prioritized in the system.
“It gives me hope. I mean, I don’t have the greatest rental history because of my abuser,” Jennifer said.
Jennifer is in the transitional housing program right now, getting counseling for herself and her kids while learning to be independent.
“Because of their abuser, not only do they not have access to finances, they don’t really have experience financially of running and budgeting a home,” Schultz said.
Regardless of the housing choice, the shelter helps clients with education and employment, and Schultz said the economy right now is actually in their favor.
“There appears to be more employment options for our folks and not just a minimum wage, a living wage,” Schultz explained.
“Since I’ve been here, I started working again,” Jennifer said. “I’m looking at schooling programs. I’m getting my independence back. It feels great.”
The TCFV is using the information about the need for housing and taking it to legislators.
“One thing we do is call on our Legislature for additional funding to make sure nobody ever gets told no,” Voyles said.
You can also call Family Violence Prevention Services at 210-733-8810 to ask about the shelter or comprehensive services.