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It’s an absolutely heartbreaking scenario, but it’s one that plays out all the time in our country. Fearing for their lives, those experiencing domestic violence flee their homes – often with children in tow and no place to go – finding themselves homeless.

Homelessness in America is a problem with numerous causes, and domestic violence is a major one. “Data is limited, but recent statistics suggest that on a single night in January 2016, 12 percent of the overall homeless population, 70,000 people, reported having experienced domestic violence at some point,” says the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “Research from a study in New York City indicates that one in five families experienced domestic violence in the five years before entering shelter. Among families that reported domestic violence in the prior five years, 88 percent reported that it contributed to their homelessness ‘a lot.'”

Those who experience homelessness because of domestic violence often don’t have a job, and being homeless only serves to undermine any attempt they make to get one, as employers won’t hire someone who doesn’t have a permanent address. It’s a truly terrible situation: yes, they may be away from their abuser, but they’re unable to provide for themselves and their families.

A Hand Up
Survivors of domestic violence are part of the vast majority of America’s homeless population who are underserved by our local, state and federal governments, which tend to focus their resources on the chronically homeless. Those who are chronically homeless spend a great deal of their lives on the street because of issues such as severe mental illness and untreated substance abuse problems. However, according to recent data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, only 14 percent of the homeless population in 2016 was chronically homeless.

The situationally homeless are experiencing homelessness because of a fairly recent crisis such as job loss, medical or health emergency, divorce, the loss of a primary income earner – or domestic abuse. These are typically hardworking people who take great pride in being self-sufficient and providing for their families but who have seen their lives upended because of forces beyond their control.

The guiding governmental philosophy has been that once the chronically homeless have been addressed, then attention can be turned to the situationally homeless. Unfortunately, this often paves the way for more situationally homeless to become chronically homeless.

Fortunately, America’s private and non-profit sectors have begun to extend a hand up to the situationally homeless. One example is the multifamily industry, where apartment management companies have partnered with the nonprofit Shelters to Shutters (S2S). The nonprofit currently works with more than 20 apartment management companies across America – including such industry giants as AvalonBay Communities and Equity Residential – to place S2S program participants in onsite, entry-level jobs and provide them with housing at the same apartment communities at which they work.

A number of the more than 100 S2S program participants placed in apartment jobs and homes were forced into homelessness because of domestic violence.

More Help Is Needed
All the across the country, people are experiencing homelessness through absolutely no fault of their own. They are homeless for reasons beyond their control, including domestic violence.

To help these people get back on the road to self-sufficiency, it’s time for the thriving and expanding apartment industry to extend them the helping hand they so desperately need.

Attending the NMHC Annual Meeting on Jan. 16-18 in Orlando, Fla.? If so, you can support S2S by participating in the NMHC Walk for the Homeless Benefiting Shelters to Shutters. The walk will be held on the morning of Thursday morning, Jan. 18 (exact time/location to be announced). All proceeds will benefit S2S.

This event is open to all registrants of the Annual Meeting, including those with networking passes. Spouses, friends and guests are also welcome to participate. Walk/run participants are asked to make a minimum $40 donation to S2S. For more information about donating, visit this page on the NMHC website.