Helping more domestic violence survivors

Domestic violence is a worldwide tragedy. But in New York it continues to be one of the main public health threats for women.

By the end of 2012 statistics from the Police painted two contrasting pictures. On the one hand, the number of victims reached a 50-year low. On the other, one out of every six homicide victims was a woman, and 68% of murders were the result of domestic violence.

Governor Andrew Cuomo declared October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the State of New York. And though both the State and the City have created programs and initiatives for prevention and victims’ assistance, there is still a long way to go.

In this electoral cycle, candidates for mayor should prioritize initiatives on their agendas to help even more victims.

For example, services from the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), such as Section 8, which provide affordable housing and other services for the homeless, are not available for victims of domestic violence, who often end up in shelters devoted to programs addressing this social problem.

NYCHA’s application requirements for these victims should be eased. Presently, any cases not documented by the police fail to qualify for benefits. As a result, most applicants from domestic violence shelters do not meet the criteria.

According to Carol Corden, Executive Director of New Destiny Housing, an organization devoted to servicing victims of domestic violence, investing in affordable housing for these victims would help lower the $1 billion budget allocated for shelters.

The cost of housing a family in a shelter for one year is $36,000, in comparison with an average of $12,000 per year in rent for permanent affordable housing.

In fact, New York City’s Independent Budget Office reported that the City spends $140 million yearly on shelters for victims of domestic violence, compared to only $400,000 for permanent housing.

The city is in need of competent, appropriate services in order to provide long-term solutions. The next mayor has an opportunity not only to be fiscally responsible, but to also save hundreds of lives and families affected each day by this social epidemic.