Testimony to the NYC Council Committee on Women and Gender Equity jointly with Committee on General Welfare

November 29, 2021

Thank you, Chairperson Diaz, Chairperson Levin, and members of the City Council Women and Gender Equity and General Welfare Committees for the opportunity to submit written testimony at this hearing.

New Destiny Housing is a 27-year-old nonprofit committed to ending the cycle of violence for low-income families and individuals experiencing homelessness and domestic violence. We build and manage new affordable housing with voluntary on-site services and through our rapid rehousing program, HousingLink, we connect survivors of domestic violence with safe, permanent housing in New York City.

We commend the Council for their work on behalf of New York City’s most vulnerable by holding this oversight hearing on HRA’s System of Domestic Violence Shelters and introducing these two bills today.

ENDING THE CYCLE OF TRAUMA

Domestic violence is the number one driver of family homelessness in New York City. In 2020, more than 9,400 individuals entered the HRA domestic violence system and 95 percent of them were families with children.1 Once they enter the system, families are more likely to transfer from domestic violence emergency shelters to another shelter than moving to permanent housing. The Department of Social Services’ 2020 Annual Report on Exits from NYC Domestic Violence Shelters shows that 53 percent of the 2,341 families with children that left HRA DV emergency shelter were transferred to other shelters, upon reaching the State-set 90-day limit.2 That is more than 1 in 2 families with minors that left shelter for shelter. This includes 352 families who were discharged to DV Tier II shelters, as well as 889 families that went to DHS shelter (either streamlined by HRA or administratively discharged and eventually went to DHS on their own).

Shelter will always be an important resource for domestic violence victims, but it should not be their only resource. While recent policy changes will help improve these frustrating outcomes, such as the enactment of Chairperson Levin’s Intro 146 which enhanced CityFHEPS vouchers, more must be done by the incoming Council and Mayoral administration to end this cycle of trauma.

We can solve this crisis by increasing the choices for victims beyond shelter. Critical components include: expanding permanent housing options for those currently experiencing homelessness; an increased investment in prevention to mitigate those entering or returning to shelter; and refocusing prioritization of supportive housing based on vulnerability measures instead of the length of time the households experience homelessness.

INTRO 2372-2021

New Destiny would like to express its support for Intro 2372-2021 introduced by Council Members Carlina Rivera and Selvena N. Brooks-Powers, which would create a two-year look-back window to the gender-motivated violence act and extend its statute of limitations.

Research shows that 99 percent of women experiencing domestic violence are also victims of economic abuse nationwide.3 According to a survey by Safe Horizon, 92 percent of survivors entering shelter reported experiencing economic abuse.4 The effects of economic abuse can be catastrophic and last for years, i.e., bad credit score and sparse employment history. Intro 2372-2021 would give survivors the opportunity to pursue civil actions to redress the wrongdoing done to them and help recover compensation from their abuser.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit written testimony. I welcome any questions you may have and look forward to collaborating further.

Gabriela Sandoval Requena
Senior Policy Analyst at New Destiny Housing
gsrequena@newdestinyhousing.org

Notes

1. NYC Department of Social Services, 2020 Annual Report on Exits from NYC Domestic Violence Shelters, page 3
2. Ibid
3. University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Financial Security, Measure the Effects of Domestic Violence on Women’s Financial Well-Being, page 1
4. Safe Horizon, Beyond Shelter, page 3

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