Gabriela Sandoval Requena
Director of Policy and Communications
October 25, 2023
Thank you, Chair Cabán and members of the City Council Women and Gender Equity Committee for holding this oversight hearing for the microgrant program for survivors of domestic and gender-based violence and the opportunity to submit written testimony.
Founded in 1994, New Destiny’s mission is to end the cycle of domestic violence and homelessness for low-income families and individuals by developing and connecting them to safe, permanent, affordable housing and services. We build and manage supportive housing, and, through our innovative programs, we assist survivors in finding permanent housing and remaining stably housed.
New Destiny is the only organization in New York City solely dedicated to the solution of permanent housing for survivors and a leading advocate in the effort to obtain the resources needed to end family homelessness. To learn more about our policy priorities, see our 2023 Policy Platform. New Destiny is also a co-convener of the Family Homelessness Coalition (FHC), a broad group of organizations and formerly homeless mothers committed to tackling homelessness among families with children in our city.
We are grateful to Speaker Adams, Council Member Cabán, and members of the Council for passing, and to Mayor Adams for swiftly signing, Intro 153-A into law, which created a housing stability program for domestic and gender-based violence survivors, also known as microgrant program. The initiative promises to provide survivors with low-barrier grants and supportive services, with the goal of helping them remain safely housed and free from abuse.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND HOMELESSNESS
While domestic violence is considered one of the most under-reported crimes, in 2022 the NYPD still filed, on average, 1 domestic violence incident report every 2 minutes.1 Access to safe and affordable housing is one of survivors’ biggest, most urgent concerns and it often determines whether they leave their abuser.
Domestic violence is the main driver of homelessness in New York City. In 2022, more than 10,000 adults and children entered the Human Resources Administration (HRA) domestic violence shelter system, 95% of them were families. Meanwhile, 39% of families using the NYC Department of Homeless Services shelter system identify domestic violence as the reason for their homelessness. Evictions rank second.2 With so few housing resources for survivors, once in shelter, they are far more likely to remain in shelter rather than to move to an apartment.
More than 50% of survivors who left HRA emergency domestic violence shelter went to another shelter instead of moving to an apartment, upon reaching the state-mandated 6-month limit. That is more than 1 in 2 families that left shelter for shelter. Clearly, more must be done to effectively support survivors’ housing stability.
FLEXIBLE FUNDING IS LIFE-SAVING FOR SURVIVORS
In a groundbreaking move, the federal government included an “economic abuse provision” in the recently-enacted Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization of 2022. This is because nearly all survivors face financial abuse, and more than half endure coerced debt, with long-lasting detrimental effects. For some survivors, an immediate, but otherwise manageable financial or health crisis can quickly snowball into a catastrophe causing homelessness.
As a recently published op-ed by Simmons University School of Social Work professor, Dr. Kristie Thomas, underscores: a growing body of research demonstrates that access to no strings attached funding is life-saving for survivors, see Appendix A. Dr. Thomas is also the researcher evaluating New Destiny’s aftercare program, another emerging best practice in helping survivors maintain stability.
New Destiny witnesses the beneficial impact of microgrants every day. Our rapid re-housing program, HousingLink, receives federal service funding from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, through the New York City Continuum of Care, which can be used to cover most emergency needs, such as utility arrears, moving costs, and healthcare. But this funding does not cover furniture, and reporting requirements make it impossible to use it for groceries. The microgrant program will help bridge the need gap by covering these essential costs, and expand the reach to more families in need.
Through this microgrant program, New York City has a huge opportunity to provide exactly what countless survivors need to stave off financial and housing insecurity, especially non-citizen New Yorkers. The program can help bridge the gap for existing initiatives and prevent homelessness for a fraction of the cost of shelter and re-housing efforts.
In June, New Destiny, alongside Safe Horizon, Sanctuary for Families, Urban Resource Institute, and Volunteers of America Greater New York, submitted a memorandum of support urging our city leaders to allocate $6 million for the Microgrant program, see Appendix B. However, only $1.2 million were allocated this fiscal year. It is critical to protect this limited funding from budget cuts, increase future annual allocations to at least $6 million, and implement the program as soon as possible.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit written testimony. New Destiny looks forward to continuing to collaborate with the Council.
We welcome any questions you may have.
 NYC Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence. (2022 October 2). New York City Announces its Annual Domestic Violence Awareness Month Campaign. https://www.nyc.gov/assets/ocdv/downloads/pdf/DVAM-Press-Release-2023-10-02.pdf
 New Destiny. (March 2023). NYC Policy Priorities. https://newdestinyhousing.org/wp-content/uploads/2023-NYC-Policy-Priorities-final.pdf