June 14, 2022
Thank you, Chair Cabán and members of the City Council Women and Gender Equity Committee for the opportunity to submit written testimony.
Founded in 1994, New Destiny is a New York City-based nonprofit committed to ending the cycle of violence for low-income families and individuals experiencing homelessness and domestic violence. We build and manage supportive, affordable housing and through our rapid rehousing program, HousingLink, we connect survivors with safe, permanent housing. New Destiny also advocates for housing resources for domestic violence survivors and their families. We invite you to read our 2022 NYC Policy Priorities.
New Destiny is a co-convener of the Family Homelessness Coalition (FHC), a broad group of organizations and New Yorkers with lived experience committed to tackling homelessness among families in our city.
For far too long, domestic violence has been the number one driver of family homelessness in New York City.1 In 2021, more than 10,000 New Yorkers entered the Human Resources Administration domestic violence shelter system. Once in emergency shelter, survivors are more likely to exit for another shelter rather than to move to permanent housing.2 Shelter will always be an important resource for survivors of domestic violence, but it should not be the only resource. More must be done to effectively support survivors’ housing stability.
We commend Chair Cabán and the Committee members for bringing attention to the plight of survivors of domestic violence and the dire need for additional resources by introducing the “Support Survivors” legislative package.
Intro 154 would require the Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence (ENDGBV) to create an online services portal and guide. We applaud the Council for their determination to make information about resources for survivors more accessible. Currently, ENDGBV manages the NYC Hope portal, which offers a resource directory that includes information about community-based organizations that work with survivors of domestic and gender-based violence in the five boroughs, while the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice also makes available resources for survivors.
New Destiny supports the intent of Intro 154 and would like to suggest the following to strengthen the language: centralizing information about available resources for survivors in one space, establishing clear processes to keep the directory of resources up to date, and ensuring that the content is correctly translated to the designated city languages as updates are made.
New Destiny supports increasing resources to provide low-barrier grants for survivors, and Intro 153 would establish a domestic violence survivor housing stability program. There is high demand for easily accessible financial support for survivors of domestic violence, most of whom are also victims of economic abuse and have been stripped from their social safety nets.3 Financial abuse can result in limited or no experience with daily financial matters, including paying bills. For low-income survivors, an immediate but otherwise manageable financial or health crisis can quickly snowball into a catastrophe causing homelessness. Research has shown that small infusions of financial assistance can mitigate these crises and foster stability.4 Flexible funding includes payments to a third party at the request of the survivor, such as childcare provider, utility payment, or health care provider, or cash assistance provided directed to the survivor. Programs that include low-barrier access, rapidly provide funds, and offer survivor-driven advocacy and safety planning have proven to be successful, according to the federal Domestic Violence and Housing Technical Assistance Consortium. In essence, survivors know better than anyone what will help their stabilization.
In 2020, in partnership with Sanctuary for Families, ENDGBV launched a first-of-its-kind pilot program to provide a limited amount of microgrants to domestic violence survivors. The project’s evaluation showed that microgrants improved survivor’s financial situation, helped them remain housed and improved their financial stability and/or lightened their financial burden.5
New Destiny would like to respectfully suggest the following to enhance the proposed legislation:
- Implement the housing stability program using a flexible funding model, which incorporates a trauma-informed, survivor-driven approach and respects the survivor’s autonomy to decide how to utilize the funding
- Build on the lessons learned from the 2020 ENDGBV microgrant pilot
- Ensure the grants do not impact participants’ eligibility for public benefits
- Baseline the funding to safeguard the continuity of the program
We are grateful for the opportunity to submit written testimony and look forward to working with the Council and the administration to advance these initiatives. We welcome any questions you may have.
Gabriela Sandoval Requena
Senior Policy Analyst at New Destiny Housing
gsrequena [at] newdestinyhousing . org
1 Silkowski, A. (2019). Housing Survivors: How New York City Can Increase Housing Stability for Survivors of Domestic Violence. New York, NY: Comptroller Bureau of Policy and Research Bureau of Budget. Retrieved from: https://comptroller.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/documents/Housing_Survivors_102119.pdf
2 NYC Department of Social Services (2022). 2021 Annual Report on Exits from NYC Domestic Violence Shelters.
3 Postmus, J., Plummer S., Mcmahon, S., Murshid, N., & Kim, M. (2012). Understanding economic abuse in the lives of survivors. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 27(3), 411-430.
4 Sullivan, C.M., Bomsta, H., & Hacskaylo, M. (2016). Evidence that flexible funding is a promising strategy to prevent homelessness for survivors of intimate partner violence: A longitudinal pilot study. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. First published on August 12, 2016 as doi:10.1177/0886260516664318.
5 Holmes, K. (2021). Evaluation Summary Report: Emergency Financial Relief Microgrants Program for Survivors of Domestic and Gender-Based Violence. Retrieved from: https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/ocdv/downloads/pdf/Emergency-Financial-Relief-Microgrants-Program-Evaluation-Summary-Report.pdf
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