DASH Featured in The Hill

The Hill recently featured a blog written by DASH’s Executive Director, Peg Hacskaylo, where she discussed the critical role “cash” plays in the lives of domestic violence survivors.

As the title of the blog states, “Cash is still king when it comes to keeping domestic violence survivors in their homes.” Survivors often find themselves facing financial hardships after their abuser is long gone as they work to recover from the financial abuse. As she highlights throughout her blog, even when survivors are able to remove their abuser from their lease, survivors are left with the responsibility of paying rent and any back pay due to the abuse.

Where do survivors turn to for help?

There are well known welfare programs like TANF that survivors can apply for financial assistance, but as DASH’S ED states, “many states choose not to continue providing cash assistance at the same level to poor families.”

This is where DASH’s ED stresses the importance of flexible funding programs so survivors can maintain their homes with their families. Flexible funding programs enable organizations to provide urgent cash assistance to those in need in areas they feel they need it (new tires, changing locks, daycare, etc.). An area of need that may seem unconnected to homelessness, i.e. new tires, is in fact, very much connected. For example, if a survivor was not able to drive their car to work because it needed new tires, but was not financially able to buy new tires, getting to work for the survivor would become extremely difficult. In the worst case scenario, losing their employment would become a reality. Now, their only source of income is gone. Flexible funding programs like DASH’s recently piloted Survivor Resilience Fund provide assistance in these gray areas.

DASH’s Survivor Resilience Fund (SRF), an innovative flexible funding program, was recently evaluated by researchers Dr. Cris Sullivan and Ms. Heather Bomsta from Michigan State University’s Consortium on Gender-based Violence. It was found that support through the SRF, “increased housing stability for 94 percent of the survivors that participated in the study.” The data from this study showed that flexible funding does in fact help survivors avoid homelessness.

“A one-time payment of as little as $200 to a family in need can be life-changing…”

If $200 is able to give a fresh start and a new beginning to survivors and their families, flexible funding should be considered and used as a tool to help survivors of domestic violence.

To read Peg Hacskylo’s full blog, click here: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/healthcare/300629-cash-is-still-king-when-it-comes-to-keeping-domestic-violence


DVAM: Past, Present and Future

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic Violence Awareness month, or DVAM for short, is a month that celebrates survivors. DVAM was created by the National Coalition for Domestic Violence, with those in mind who passed away from domestic violence (DV), those surviving from DV, and those who work together to end DV.  October 1987 was the first month DVAM was celebrated [1]. The U.S. Congress passed Public Law 101-112 in 1989, officially making October Domestic Violence Awareness Month 1.

Today, DVAM is celebrated all over the United States.  Locally, DVAM is celebrated by many non-profit organizations. DASH kicked off its celebration of DVAM, by partnering with the DC Coalition for Domestic Violence.  On September 27th, DASH staff and volunteers “Painted The Town Purple” at local metro stations by passing out postcards, purple buttons, and other #SpreadLoveDC resources to raise awareness among community members. If you would like to see photos of Paint The Town Purple, click here. Also, DASH’s Executive Director, Peg Hacskaylo was interviewed on NBC4 during their “Safe at Home” series where she discussed the lack of safe housing options for domestic violence survivors and highlighted resources in the local area for survivors and their families. If you would like to see this segment, click here

As we make our way through October, DASH will continue to celebrate DVAM through events like Purple Thursday (October 20th) and BalderDASH (October 27th). BalderDASH is our annual event to celebrate DVAM and to honor survivors and the impact of our safe housing programs in the community. To attend BalderDASH, find out more information here.  

Also, be sure to check out the National Domestic Violence Awareness Month Proclamation where President Obama officially proclaims October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and urges all Americans to take a stand against domestic violence. 

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[1] National Resource Center on Domestic Violence. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.nrcdv.org/dvam/DVAM-history


New Evaluation Report Released!

Over the last two years, DASH engaged Drs. Cris Sullivan and Nkiru Nnawulezi to conduct an evaluation of the DASH model. Dr. Sullivan, Director of Michigan State University’s Research Consortium on Gender-based Violence, is a national expert on evaluating the effectiveness of housing programs providing survivor-centered, empowering advocacy. Dr. Nnawulezi, who is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, conducts participatory research and evaluation studies with domestic violence shelters. Together, they designed a mixed-methods evaluation to explore the effectiveness of DASH Cornerstone Housing Program.

The DASH model is a value-based decision making and management model to working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence. The model is premised on three elements:

  1. Survivors with complex needs – often resulting from situations which involved multiple/sustained trauma, institutional oppression, and systemic marginalization – are best served through programs which are highly individualized, relational, and adaptable;
  2. The degree to which survivors present with such complex needs is inversely proportionate to the degree that program structure and service intensity that will effectively enable survivor safety and empowerment; and,
  3. Staff who work in such programs require an equivalent degree of autonomy, flexibility, and skill-building in order to implement such programs.

In other words, the best way to help people with complex needs is through a simple yet nuanced approach that supports both survivors, and their advocates, to be empowered and self-determining.

Drs. Sullivan and Nnawulezi developed a specific research model that examined the efficacy of the DASH model and structure and its impact on survivors’ ability to pursue longer-term safety and stability following their work with DASH.  Through the evaluation process, researchers working hand-in-hand with DASH staff and program participants developed a specialized evaluation instrument to measure the impact of DASH’s model on survivor outcomes.

This past month, DASH received the final evaluation report prepared by Dr. Nnawulezi. “We are really pleased to have evidence which supports our approach to working with survivors to achieve safety, empowerment, and self-determination,” said Peg Hacskaylo, DASH Executive Director.  

The final evaluation report can be read here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9iDJmqs9Mj_RzU2eU1kRVU4ZE0

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DASH is an innovator in providing access to safe housing and services for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and their families, as they rebuild their lives on their own terms. We envision a culture where safe housing is a human right shared by everyone.


DASH Receives Outstanding Leadership Award!

We are excited to announce that DASH was recognized today by the Center for Nonprofit Advancement as the 2015 honorable mention recipient of the Gelman Rosenberg and Freedman EXCEL Award!

The EXCEL Award, launched by the Center for Nonprofit Advancement, spotlights outstanding nonprofit leadership in the Washington, DC region. The award recognizes leadership achievement in the areas of innovation, motivation,community building, ethical integrity and strategic leadership. The award Selection Committee, made up of distinguished members of the business, philanthropic and nonprofit community, searched for examples of outstanding leadership that have moved beyond the recommended best practices to bring new levels of engagement that deliver results for the organization.

“The EXCEL honorable mention speaks to the passion and hard-work of the DASH staff and Board of Directors. As an organization we are dedicated to providing low barrier safe housing and services to survivors of domestic violence and their families as they work to rebuild their lives on their own terms,” states Peg Hacskaylo, DASH Executive Director, “While there is still a troubling gap in housing services for survivors in the DC region – we are hopeful that collaborations with the Center for Nonprofit Advancement and other local partners will help us continue to address housing needs in a comprehensive manner and ensure that every survivor has access to the safe, affordable housing that they need.”

As the an Honorable Mention DASH will will receive a $1,000 professional development grant; communication exposure through print and social media; and training and development opportunities for the staff and Executive Director from the Center’s Learning & Leadership.

 

 

 


Summer Gardening at DASH!

We reached out to a former Cornerstone Advocate and current DASH ambassador extraordinaire to talk about the community garden that she started in her time at DASH.

What motivated you to create the garden at DASH?

Well, there was a small garden plot to begin with, so we expanded to include perennial herbs and flowers and more vegetables. There were several residents who were into gardening and cooking (especially in Afusat’s cooking class!), and their enthusiasm was the greatest motivating factor. Plus, I love to garden and be outside.

In what ways do you think the garden fits into the larger DASH model and mission?

DASH seeks to be a holistic space for safety, healing and empowerment, and gardens can be that just that. A garden is about so much more than food production. It can be a therapeutic space; a place where friends and neighbors gather and connections are made; a place where we experience empowerment and growth; where we witness transformation and change. In these ways, like DASH, at its best, a garden is a home.

What is your favorite memory of the DASH garden?

I have many delightful memories with the kiddos in the garden – their wonder of strawberries, awe of sunflowers, enthusiasm for watering, their free spirited digging. One of my most memorable moments involved a resident who lives with schizophrenia. It was mid-summer and she had been spending time in the garden on a regular basis. She shared with me one evening after a doctor’s visit that her psychiatrist noticed a remarkable difference in her, specifically noting that she presented a lower level of anxiety and a greater level of clarity. Her medication had not changed; the doctor attributed this to her engagement in our garden. This was a powerful reminder that the DASH garden has an impact, not only in its beauty to behold, but also in tangible ways – physically, mentally, and spiritually — for us as individual and collective beings.

 

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What It Takes DC Blog #8: Fear, Depression and Anxiety

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Note: This is the 8th post in DASH’s ongoing What It Takes blog series, which examines and explains the various factors that make getting safe from abuse so difficult. Each post explores factors that survivors have to navigate on their journey to finding safety. Learn more about the campaign at the What It Takes page, and please spread the word: #WhatItTakesDC. 

This is a guest blog from the DASH Community Housing Advocate

The biggest barrier to safety for survivors of domestic violence is access to safe housing. We hear this again and again from the survivors who come to the Housing Resource Center looking for help. They want to leave but they don’t have the financial resources to live on their own and can’t get into a local shelter. But safe housing is not the only barrier.  For some survivors the biggest challenge to finding safety isn’t tangible; it’s fear, depression, low self-worth and anxiety.

At DASH we do everything in our power to provide access to safe housing so our clients can escape abuse and move forward with their lives. We don’t require proof of abuse or residency. We work with clients who are struggling with mental illness and substance abuse and we welcome survivors regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. We strive to meet survivors where they are when they need us.

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Sometimes, as hard as we try, as many resources as we offer, it still isn’t enough though. The reality is that finding safe, affordable housing in the District of Columbia is a long, difficult process that can take months of planning and waiting. Finding housing is already an exhausting process – but it’s especially difficult for survivors who often fear for their lives and have been hugely impacted by trauma. It takes a tremendous amount of strength to call us every week and just as much courage to discuss their lives with total strangers at our Housing Resource Clinic. There are clients that contact us frequently over a period of months all the while living with abusive circumstances.  Although these tasks may seem small they require levels of emotional energy that survivors must muster up from somewhere in an effort to stay consistent.

One woman who came to see me at Wednesday clinic was dressed from head to toe in black. She whispered so softly that I could barely hear her. She was in constant fear of her abuser, that he would find out she was leaving or where she was. She felt so threatened that she refused to have a phone as she believed he would use it to track her location. “I’m afraid to leave and I’m afraid to stay,” I remember her saying as we discussed her options. This was a survivor who was financially stable, but she was so beaten down both emotionally and physically that it had taken her years to reach out for help.

Most of the clients I meet with are either dealing with feelings of depression or anxiety due to their abusive relationships. Emotional trauma can manifest physically through lack of sleep or oversleeping, not eating or over eating, self-harm behaviors like substance use, digestive problems, headaches, weaken immune systems and poor emotion regulation like bursts of anger or sadness. They are often either debilitated and void of motivation and energy, or they can’t focus and seem riled up and angry.

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One man had an emotionally abusive girlfriend. She constantly berated him telling him he was worthless and would never amount to anything. His self-esteem got so low that he could barely get off the couch. He started to believe that he needed her, that he was nothing without her. He subsequently stopped taking care of himself. It took a lot of energy and courage for him to meet with me, and that was just the beginning of the process.

Another hurdle that clients deal with is sharing a child with their abuser, which is not uncommon. This can add a whole other level of complexity to leaving a relationship. One abuser had repeatedly threatened my client that if she left him he could make sure he got custody of their two children. She waited two years to try and leave because she didn’t want her children to stay a lone with him, afraid of what he was capable of. Other mothers deal with conflicted emotions, wanting their children to have a father while also needing to shield them from abuse.

Finding safety from abuse is never easy. We’ve talked about some of the reasons why like technological abuse and stalking, lack of financial resources and housing options. These are all huge barriers for survivors – but dealing with feelings of depression, anxiety, fear or low self- worth are equally challenging. It takes a lot for survivors to get in the door at the clinic or to find the courage to call DASH. For those who say, “just leave” to survivors I ask you go a little deeper and try to understand some of the difficult realities of domestic violence. It’s never that easy or that simple.

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What It Takes DC #7: The Importance of Safe, Stable Housing

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Note: This is the 7th post in DASH’s ongoing What It Takes blog series, which examines and explains the various factors that make getting safe from abuse so difficult. Each post explores factors that survivors have to navigate on their journey to finding safety. Learn more about the campaign at the What It Takes page, and please spread the word: #WhatItTakesDC. 

The biggest barrier for survivors trying to find safety from abuse is access to safe, stable housing for them and their children. Check out our blog from last week for more information on the shortage of housing for survivors of domestic violence in the District.  This week we are exploring this issue in a more personal way  through the story of Alice, a former DASH resident. Alice was the keynote speaker at the 5th annual Allies in Change event in April 2015 – below she explains the barriers that she faced when trying to leave her abuser and find a safe place to stay.

My Story:

Hello my name is Alice; I became a resident at (DASH) January 22, 2010. I came to (DASH) due to domestic violence, I was not physically abused but emotionally and verbally abused.

I will not forget the day I said I had enough of my abuser which was my son’s father. On 12/22/2009, my abuser came home high on P.C.P, he has been an addict since his mom died on May 25, 2007.  Back then I worked the night shift at a nursing home in upper NW. As I was getting ready for work a loud “boom” came from the living room of my home. My abuser tossed our son across the room, he was high and hallucinating. His words were “that’s not my son he looks like a monster” quickly I fought him for throwing my son, I walked into the kitchen when I turned around there was a long butcher knife to my neck. He told me if I moved he will kill me. That’s when I knew my life and the life of  my children were in danger.

I called the police and no arrest was made, they asked that he remove himself from the residence. I wasn’t able to go to work that night due to the incident and at the time I was the only one working. My son was not hurt in this attack he was 15 months at the time. The New Year was approaching and I knew I was going to leave him. I didn’t have anywhere to run due to lack of family support. I reached out to family but all seem to reject me and even my situation. Sometimes they would go as far to say “I told you so” and at that time safety and comfort was more important than criticism.

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Finally I went to the D.C. Superior Court to file a (CPO) against my abuser. The judge granted the order the same day; the court building assisted me with “Crime Victims Compensation” my daughter, son and I were placed in a shelter. The shelter I was placed in was worse than the home that I had just left. I was placed in one room, with no bathroom. It was just a room with a one full size bed, a sink and a small size refrigerator. I shared a bathroom with 7 other women many of the women got high in the bathroom. They always seem to smoke P.C.P and every time I smelled that odor it took me back to that moment.  My children and I didn’t eat a balanced meal for 2 weeks we lived off microwave dinners.

Showering at this shelter was terrible many of the women were having sex in the bathroom. There were used condoms on the floor, drug bags, and crack pipes even blood stains around the toilet seat. Me and my kids washed up over a small sink inside of our room for 2 weeks. When I left my abuser and also my apartment I left everything, I left with one outfit and my kids had 3 outfits a piece. I didn’t have any money to survive he stole what little I did have saved.

Finally on 1/22/2010 I received a phone call from DASH to come in for an intake. I rushed to gather my personal documents I was placed 2 days later. Finally I felt safe and comfortable they gave me a two bedroom apartment “It actually looked better than the apartment I was paying $1000 for” to live in. The apartment was furnished 100% my kids were so happy. I haven’t seen them smile in days at that time my kids were 1 and 3 years old.

I will never forget the first thing we did was shower for a long time and I cooked a home cooked meal “You would have thought it was Thanksgiving in January” I cried so many nights wondering how did I allow myself to fail me and my children all for one individual love. While at DASH I used every resource available to me. The first program I lived in at DASH was Huruma it was a 60 day program. I was afraid at times that me and my children would be homeless again.

I worked with my advocate every time I was scheduled. She found resources for employment, school, and permanent housing. I lost my job because I didn’t have childcare me and my children safety was more important at the time. I enrolled into school to become a (CNA) the course was a 4 week program. I completed this course successfully. One day DASH had a meeting with all residents announcing they were opening a bigger location.

I already knew I wasn’t going to be part of their growth because my time was almost up. Then when they said “ALICE  you are going with us,” I cried so hard I was more than thankful and over joyed. I picked the kids up from daycare they were enrolled full-time. I told the kids about the exciting news even though they were too young to understand. The day had come for me to move out I was packed and ready to go I signed my 2 year lease at DASH’s new location called Cornerstone.

They placed my keys inside of hand my apartment, 1D which meant to me “ONE DREAM, ONE DESTINY, and ONE DESIRE” At DASH I built a trusting relationship and also a loving one. DASH was and is really there to help women become better and do better. They had yoga, zumba, meditation, childcare “playroom”, and potlucks, cooking classes, crochet, counseling, addiction counseling, advocate support, clothes and food drives, holiday baskets and free give a ways, to basketball games, President Easter egg roll and much more.

I really enjoyed myself while living at DASH, this program has changed me as a mother, daughter and even as a person and the way I think today. When I came to DASH I was bitter, angry, frustrated, depressed and sometimes disrespectful because I was mad at myself. I had to take medication to control my behavior back then.

I advocated for myself so many times via email, phone and writing letters. I called DCHA almost every day I fought for permanent housing. I told them my story every time I had the opportunity too. One day I came home to DASH I checked my mailbox a letter from housing was sitting there. I opened the letter and they accepted my request and I danced across the main lobby floor.

I was schedule to come in for an interview 3/13/12. Everything was approved I moved into my own permanent housing 8/31/12 a three bedroom house where I live today.  I moved into my own home I promised myself no man could live with me not like my abuser again unless it was my husband.

I never knew if I would get married but I did want to marry before the age 35, I’m 28 years old now through the trials and tribulations I have been a full time college student since 3/12/12. I’m majoring in criminal justice to become a homicide detective. I’m proud to announce in 2 weeks I will graduate with my bachelor’s degree.

During my time in college in 2012, I met a wonderful man, his smile, his walk, his personality was nothing but positive. He looked passed my story he promised me a better future and we have been best friends since. This year on 1/15/2015 I married this amazing man that I admired and he also admired me I’m no longer just Alice I am now Alice, a strong survivor.


Domestic Violence Matters: 2014 Domestic Violence Counts Report Released

Note: This is the 5th post in a new blog series by DASH called ‘Domestic Violence Matters’, which discusses current events and media coverage of domestic violence. We believe that empowering, provocative, and original media and storytelling must play a critical role in helping to overcome domestic violence in our society.

In a single day last September there were 28 unmet requests for safe housing from survivors of domestic violence in DC, according to the new Domestic Violence Counts Report. This means that in the space of twenty-four hours, 28 women and men gathered the courage to meet with an advocate in an attempt to find a safe place to stay but were turned away. These 28 survivors of domestic violence were then left with two options —  go back to their abuser or become homeless.

Each year the National Network Against Domestic Violence (NNEDV) works with local organizations to gather data on the types of domestic violence services requested and provided across the United States. The 2015 report sheds light on some important trends in the DC area.

On September 10th, 2014:
  • 847 victims of domestic violence were served (53% increase from 2013)
  • 499 victims were safely housed in emergency and transitional housing (57% increase from 2013)
  • 75 hotline calls were answered (56% increase from 2013)
  • 77 victims requested services that advocates were unable to provide (48% increase from 2013)

“Each week at the Housing Resource Clinic DASH advocates work with dozens of survivors in an attempt to provide them with safe housing access. Some families however, are forced to wait for months in dangerous situations because domestic violence shelters in the District are constantly at capacity. This report shows us what we already know – there are not enough options for survivors in DC, we need to be doing more.”- DASH Executive Director, Peg Hacskaylo

At DASH we believe that having a place to stay free from abuse is a fundamental human right. No one should have to choose between living in an abusive home and being homeless. Since DASH was founded in 2006 we have doubled the number of safe beds for survivors in the District, and in the next year we will continue to work to expand our services to meet the growing need.

Support DASH today

Last Week:

Domestic Violence Matters: The NFL


Domestic Violence Matters: The NFL

Note: This is the 4th post in a new blog series by DASH called ‘Domestic Violence Matters’, which discusses current events and media coverage of domestic violence. We believe that empowering, provocative, and original media and storytelling must play a critical role in helping to overcome domestic violence in our society.

In the wake of two more domestic violence related incidences within the NFL regarding Ray McDonald of the Bears and most recently Bruce Miller of the 49ers, we sat down with the DASH Clinical Director to discuss how the NFL is handling domestic violence and, why their response even matters.

Q: In the last year the NFL has gotten a lot of media attention for the way that they internally handle domestic violence cases. Why do you think it matters how the NFL responds to domestic violence?

A: It’s important for the NFL to take action when one of their players commits an act of domestic violence because as an institution, the NFL has a lot of influence in our society. What the NFL does, in terms of the choices they make and the causes they support has a huge impact society wide. When I think about the good that the NFL could do on domestic violence – it’s extraordinary. They reach a lot of communities who wouldn’t ordinarily hear messages from the domestic violence service community including young people and men. So it’s even more important that they take a stand and say as a business, we are not going to stand for this, we are not going to have a participant who assaults their partner. It’s crucial.

Q: Aside from their influence, is there anything else that uniquely positions the NFL in the issue of domestic violence?

A: I think the big reason that the NFL has such an opportunity to impact the issue is that so much of our ideas about masculinity and what it means to be a real man are tied to being good at sports, being strong and physically aggressive. In pretty obvious ways the NFL perpetuates a culture of domination, specifically among men. And then when we look at the patterns that occur in domestic violence relationships we can see a lot of those same dynamics of power, control and aggression played out. The audience that the NFL reaches, the culture that they represent put them in a place to make a really positive impact on the issue of domestic violence in the United States.

Q: Because the NFL has received negative attention for their handling of domestic violence cases, specifically the Ray Rice case last fall, they have increased penalties for players involved in domestic violence situations. What do you think the impact of harsher punishment is on the wives, girlfriends and partners who are victims of domestic violence and their ability to speak out?

A: This is a big issue, I think that as the NFL has gotten stricter on domestic violence, it has put increased pressure on victims to not report assault or speak out for fear that their partner will be fired, their source of income gone and on top of that they face a huge amount of media attention and scrutiny. It’s already extremely difficult for survivors to seek help for domestic violence, but then when you are reporting a sports celebrity it creates all these other challenges and becomes harder for the victims to protect themselves. The dynamic is one where it’s the victim’s responsibility to report their abuse so that the individual player can be held accountable and then the NFL can take action. And it’s hard because the players should be held accountable, as all abusers should. But we need to make sure we are supporting survivors of domestic violence to be safe and empowered as well.

Q: The NFL recently instituted mandatory domestic violence training for all NFL staff and players and they have started financially supporting the National Domestic Violence Hotline. What are other ways you think they could make an impact on the issue of domestic violence?

A: I would really like to see their education efforts focused on prevention and talking about ways to communicate without being violent and how in a healthy relationship you don’t assault your partner. That would be really powerful education for the NFL to take a lead on not just for their players, but for athletes across the US. Make dating violence prevention a priority in college football, in high school sports they could even start reaching out to community recreation leagues. Think about the power of that message coming from the NFL to kids and teens, that healthy relationships, healthy communication is important. They have the money and the influence to really make that happen.

Q: You mentioned that the NFL has the ability to reach people who haven’t been exposed to domestic violence as an issue. What is one thing you would like them to understand?

A: Living free from violence is a human right and as a community we are saying we are not going to tolerate it. And if I could say 2 things, healthy masculinity and being a “real man” means you should use your strength for good and to take care of and provide for your partner and your children.

About DASH

DASH’s mission is to be an innovator in providing access to safe housing and services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence and their families as they rebuild their lives on their own terms.

Support DC families escaping abuse today.

Learn more about DASH’s safe housing programs for survivors of domestic and sexual violence and their families in the District.


What It Takes DC #5: The Housing Resource Center

Note: This is the fifth post in DASH’s ongoing What It Takes blog series, which examines and explains the various factors that make getting safe from abuse so difficult. Each post explores factors that survivors have to navigate on their journey to finding safety. Learn more about the campaign at the What It Takes page, and please spread the word: #WhatItTakesDC. 

This is a guest post from the DASH Community Housing Resource Specialist.

I am Community Housing Resource Specialist at the DASH Housing Resource Clinic. The Clinic takes place on Wednesdays from 1:30-3:30pm at the Westminister Presbyterian Church on 400 I St SW, DC.

The Housing Resource Center is the hub of DASH’s efforts to prevent homelessness among domestic violence survivors. Through the Housing Resource Center, DASH staff partner with My Sisters Place and the DC Volunteer Lawyers Project we work to provide a full spectrum of legal, housing and counseling services for survivors. We assist survivors in completing housing applications, obtaining safety transfers, navigating the public housing system, and making connections to community services in order to help them find safety from abuse.

The Clinic is a judgment free zone, it’s a place for survivors to come and talk through their situation in a safe, clean space.

 

Providing Support for Survivors

Each week I work with between 6 and 25 men and women from all backgrounds and situations. There is no typical day at the clinic because no domestic violence situation is the same. Last week I spoke with a survivor who traveled from a small town in Delaware to talk to DASH about our services. She came from a small community with one shelter, her husband of 23 years would find out if she tried to access services there. Survivors come to the clinic in a variety of emotional states. Some are young and desperate, in the middle of a new domestic violence relationship, others have been with the same abuser for decades and finally decided it was enough, but regardless – they all need a safe place to go. I work with them to find some normalcy and stability.

The Clinic is a judgment free zone, it’s a place for survivors to come and talk through their situation in a safe, clean space. Sometimes talking is all they need, they just need someone to say, “you can do this”. I worked with a woman in the process of leaving her abuser who couldn’t access housing because she had a $2,400 unpaid debt. While we were in the process of trying to support her financially through the Survivor Resilience Fund – she called the collection agency herself and negotiated her debt down to $1,000, set up her own payment schedule and decided she didn’t need financial assistance. All she needed was an ear and a safe place to hear herself think.

For some survivors, just seeing other people in the clinic waiting room going through the same thing is enough. It’s creates a sense of community – they are not alone. They often trade resources and tips while they wait.

Barriers to Safety

Many survivors I meet with face additional burdens outside of domestic violence. They often struggle with addiction, lack financial security or have a criminal record. Part of what makes DASH a safe place is that we are not the government or the police. Many of my clients have had negative experiences with Law Enforcement that make it hard for them to put their trust in the police. Some don’t feel that when they’ve called the police, they’ve been taken seriously, while others have even been arrested. I met with a transgender woman who called the police after a domestic violence incidence and had the officer tell her to, “pack a bag and never come back,” which would have pushed her into homelessness. Another officer allegedly told a client to stop drinking and go to bed when she called 911 on her physically abusive husband. Survivors need a place where they feel completely safe, and the DASH Clinic is that place.

The biggest barrier for survivors trying to find safety is housing access. Housing Programs in DC are at capacity – including DASH. I often have to work with survivors for months before I am able to place them in safe housing. Most recently I met with a woman who was living with her two teenagers in her place of employment because they had nowhere else to go when she left her abuser.

We help folks at the Clinic, and that’s why I think it should always be around.

Her first husband and the father of her children had been supportive, loving and calm. When he passed away she remarried to a controlling and emotionally abusive man. She paid the rent in their 3 bedroom house but he wouldn’t let her or her children have a key. He often made them wait outside for 45 minutes when they came home before letting them come in. He timed her teenagers as they used the bathroom before school; each was only allowed 3 minutes to get ready. He even kept a padlock on the fridge that only he had a key to limiting their access to food in the house.

Eventually she decided it was too much. One Saturday she packed all their stuff and took them to her office. The office didn’t have a shower or kitchen so they had to eat take out almost every day. Sometimes they would get a hotel room just to take showers.  When her employer found out, she was forced to disclose her abuse and find a new place to stay.

Now at DASH, her children have a place to sleep and be comfortable. They are on time for school; one is graduating this year. She is still working, saving money for her own place. DASH allowed her to take a breath and for the next two years she can plan for the future.

The Housing Resource Clinic is a place where survivors can feel safe and heard. With our partnership with the DC Volunteers Lawyers Project and My Sisters Place, we are able to provide comprehensive, collaborative support for survivors. We help folks at the Clinic, and that’s why I think it should always be around.

Take Action:

You can learn more about what it takes for survivors to get safe at WhatItTakes.org or donate to DASH to support access to safe housing for survivors.