Limited research is available on what works when providing housing and shelter services to survivors of domestic violence, despite the demand for these services.
According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence’s 16th Annual Domestic Violence Counts Report, on September 9, 2021, service programs were not able to meet the needs of 9,444 individuals due to a lack of resources. Of these of these unmet requests, 64 percent (6,049) were related to housing and emergency shelter services.
A new quasi-experimental, longitudinal evaluation study followed more than 400 survivors of domestic violence, and their children, who experienced homelessness or unstable housing over a period of 2 years.
Some survivors received Domestic Violence Housing First (DVHF) model services, which provide housing-related advocacy and flexible funding to help survivors achieve safe and stable housing. Others received services as usual.
Compared to those who received services as usual, recipients of DVHF services were more likely to obtain and maintain safe and stable housing over time. The research also suggests that DVHF works similarly for survivors across race and Latinx ethnicity.
Survivors who received DVHF services also reported lower abuse and improved mental health compared to those who received services as usual. Parents who received DVHF reported that their children exhibited more prosocial behaviors. However, DVHF services did not correlate to children’s increased school attendance, school performance, or other changes in problem behaviors.
When evaluating the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which began midway through the evaluation’s data collection, the study found that the pandemic did not appear to impact the effectiveness of DVHF services over most outcomes.
Although more research is needed, the findings show that the DVHF model may be a promising practice that could lead to greater housing stability for survivors of domestic violence.
This evaluation was produced by the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence and its subcontractor, Michigan State University, on behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, in partnership with OVC. Additional funding was provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.