HOW DO I FIND PERMANENT HOUSING?

DV-INFORMED TIPS FOR FINDING SAFE HOUSING
Finding a new place to live can feel exciting and stressful for anyone, but if you are a survivor escaping domestic violence, it can feel both overwhelming and liberating. There are safety concerns that survivors must often keep in mind. Listed below are tips specifically for survivors on how to navigate the process for finding a safe place to live, including:

Tips for Finding a Safe Neighborhood 

Tip 1: Visit the neighborhood at various times throughout the day and night. A neighborhood can look pleasant and quiet during the day when most people are at work and/or school. Try to go back to the location in the evenings and on weekends. You may get a different perspective.

Tip 2: Pay attention to how well the streets are lit. Are there any broken or burned out lights? Are sidewalks and alley ways too dark?

Tip 3: If you drive, notice where and when the available parking spaces are located.   Street parking may be the only option for you. If this is the case, try to get a good idea of when spaces in front of your residence are available and if you can avoid walking a long way, especially at night.

Tip 4: It is always a good idea to identify where the local law enforcement station is located and how often they patrol the area. Being able to view the neighborhood at different times of the day and night may give you a chance to observe whether or not there is a police presence in the area. Inquire about any neighborhood watch groups that patrol the streets at night, providing an extra layer of community safety.

Tip 5: If you use public transportation, make sure you locate the nearest bus stops and metro stations. In many neighborhoods the bus stops are near wooded areas. Be mindful of these dark, unlit areas, especially at night when fewer people are around.

Tip 6: If you have children that walk to school, identify a safe route for them to take and develop a strategy for ensuring that they make it to and from their destination safely.

Tip 7: Look up the crime statistics for the neighborhood you’re considering by visiting:www.crimeindc.org
or
http://mpdc.dc.gov/mpdc/cwp/view,a,1239,q,543329.asp

Tips for Your New Home
Now that you have made the courageous decision to leave and find your own safe place to live, keep these safety tips in mind:

Tip 1: Consider getting a PO Box.
Having a PO Box is a good safety measure for several reasons:

  • If you are relocating temporarily or find that you need to relocate quickly, it minimizes the need for changing your address or having to go back to an unsafe situation to get your mail.
  • It minimizes the risk of your abuser accessing your personal information.
  • Having a PO Box can also be a safer option if you are still in an abusive relationship and want to begin receiving mail about available housing options, properties, etc.
  • Apartment complex mailboxes are sometimes situated either outside of the entryway or on a walk way several feet from the entrance.   This could potentially put you in a vulnerable situation if someone were to follow you home.

To inquire about obtaining a PO Box, contact your local US Post Office. You can locate a post office by going to www.usps.com.

If you decide to not get a PO Box, be sure your name is not on the mailbox so that no one can locate your apartment.

Tip 2: Inquire about front door security, and plan for your safety.

As you check out various apartment buildings and residences, consider the following safety elements:

  • Does the building have a secured entryway? Check to see how all entrances and exits are secured.
  • Does the building have a person at the front desk? If so, be sure to know if the front desk person is responsible for letting visitors in the building?
  • If there is a person who manages the front desk, give him or her the name and picture of anyone who you do not want visiting you, as well as a copy of the protection order, if there is one in place.
  • Have a back-up plan for what you will do if the unwanted visitor is able to enter the front door. You might want to consider asking the desk manager to call the police and notify you immediately if this happens.
  • If the apartment does have an intercom system in which the resident buzzes the visitor in, take your time and make sure you identify each person calling you. Ask if they are alone or any other questions that will help you to feel safe about letting the visitor in to your building.
  • If someone who you do not want in the building does get buzzed in by a desk person or another resident, keep a record of when it happens and report it to the building manager or landlord. In buildings without front desk security personnel, a general memo can be posted reminding tenants not to allow strangers into the building.
  • Make sure that your name and apartment number does not appear on the intercom system or on the mailboxes.

Tip 3: Assess safety in stairwells and elevators.

  • If your apartment building does not have an elevator, make sure that the stairwell is well lit. Be aware of any alcoves or blind spots.
  • If the building has an elevator, ask the building manager if security cameras are installed and if the elevator has an emergency button. Consider getting instructions on how to contact someone if an emergency occurs in the elevator.

Tip 4: Assess parking safety.

  • If you drive, be mindful of where you have to park in relationship to your front door.   Always check out whether there is adequate lighting for street, garage or lot parking.
  • If you have to park on the street, inquire about any parking permits you may need.
  • Some garages and large parking lots have emergency call boxes and security cameras; make sure you are aware of where they are located.   Inquire if those amenities are available.

Tip 5: Secure windows on the ground level.

  • Check to see if the apartment windows on or near the ground level have security mechanisms built in such as iron bars or extra locking features on the inside windows.

Tip 6: Learn strategies for keeping yourself safe.

  • You may want to consider taking a class to learn strategies for keeping yourself safe and responding to abuse, harassment and assault. Below is one program that provides self defense training for survivors:
      DEFEND YOURSELF
      Phone: 301.608.3708
      Web: www.defendyourself.org
      Population Served: Everyone aged 3 and up. Emphasis on women, teen girls, abuse and assault survivors, LGBTQI people, and people with disabilities.
      Services: Training in skills for dealing with harassment, abuse, and assault. Strategies for preventing future abuse/assault as well as recovery from past abuse/assault. (Anyone can do this! You don’t have to be an athlete or a martial artist to help yourself be safer.) Classes tailored to your workplace, community group, school, etc., as well as classes open to the public.

Tips for Reclaiming Your Financial Independence 
Economic abuse is a part of the cycle of violence that often plagues survivors well after they have left an abusive relationship. Economic abuse includes such things as:

  • Damaged credit by the abuser;
  • Stolen funds; and
  • Limited to no control over your personal finances.

Tip 1: Get your credit report.
This is the critical first step to getting your financial life back on track. By obtaining a copy of your credit report you will be able to see any and all debts that have gone into collections. You may not even be aware that you have debt. If your abusive partner had access to your personal information and could open credit cards or other accounts in your name or jointly and they are in default, they will likely be on your credit report. The contact information of each creditor is usually listed on the report so that you can contact them directly to resolve any issues. By law you are entitled to one free credit report each year. You can go towww.annualreport.com to obtain your free copy.

Knowing what’s on your credit report and knowing your credit score is important for many reasons including securing housing. Landlords often will require a credit history. If you’re armed with information and a plan to resolve credit issues, some landlords will negotiate with you.

Safety Alert - When obtaining your credit report keep the following safety precautions in mind:

  • If you are still in the house with your abuser, have a website ready to switch to if he/she enters the room;
  • Delete all temporary files and history on your computer;
    • If the credit report is being mailed to you and you do not have a new address yet, consider the following:
    • If you are already working with an advocate in the community, ask for her assistance using her computer and mailing the report to her office.
  • You may also want to consider having the report mailed to your job or a trusted friend or relative.

Tip 2: Keep a log of your spending.
Every day for one week write down everything that you spend money on and how much you spend. If on Monday you buy a cup of coffee for breakfast and it costs $1.50, write that down. If you buy lunch for $7.35, write that down, if you buy a candy bar out of the vending machine for $.65 write that down. You may be amazed at your spending habits.

Tip 3: Save money.
Figure out where you can save money. Once you have tracked your spending for one week, use that information to figure out where you can decrease your spending and possibly move that money toward paying down debt or into savings.

Tip 4: Create a cost of living plan.
Once you have checked your credit report and have figured out exactly what your debts are and how you spend your money, write out a cost of living plan based on your monthly expenses and income. A cost of living plan can help you track how much money you need to live on each month. Depending on how comfortable you are with doing this, you may want to get help from an advocate.

Tip 5: Seek financial management assistance.
Many local agencies offer budgeting and financial planning classes, workshops and even one-on-one counseling. Some organizations have specific groups for survivors of domestic violence. To get started, contact one the following organizations:

  • Change Inc. 202.387.3725

Tips for Staying Connected to Support Systems
Once you have secured your own housing and have regained your independence, you may find it helpful to connect with or remain connected to support networks who understand what you’ve been through and can assist you. The following organizations are non-residential organizations that provide such things as counseling, legal assistance, medical care, support groups and general advocacy for domestic violence survivors.

    AYUDA, INC
    1707 Kalorama Road, NW
    Washington, DC 20009
    Phone: 202.387.4848
    Fax: 202.387.0324
    Website: ayudainc.org
    Population Served: Low-income Latino/Immigrant women
    Services: Bilingual legal and social services such as handling of temporary and civil protection orders and the issuance, modification, extension and enforcement of such orders, separation and/or divorce orders, custody and visitation rights, spousal and child support.
    Admission Process: Please call the office or drop-in, Monday-Friday, 9AM to 5PM.
    Notes: Fully staffed with bilingual Spanish/English members.
    BREAK THE CYCLE
    PO Box 21034
    Washington, DC 20009
    Phone: 202.824.0707
    Fax: 202.824.0747
    Website: www.thesafeplace.org
    Population Served: Youth (12 to 24 years old)
    Services: Training for teen dating violence. Preventive education, free legal services, advocacy and support.
    DC RAPE CRISIS CENTER
    PO Box 34125
    Washington, DC 20043
    Phone: 202.232.0789
    TTY: 202.328.1371
    Hotline: 202.333.7273
    Fax: 202.387.3812
    Population Served: Individuals, single and two-parent families, and couples.
    Services: 12 free counseling sessions are provided for survivors of adult rape and 6 months of free counseling is provided for survivors who have experienced trauma in childhood. Trained counselors are on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Other services include: companion services, community education, literature, self-defense, advocacy, SANE/SART Program (Sexual Assault Response Team).
    DEAF ABUSED WOMEN’S NETWORK (DAWN)
    1050 17 th Street, NW, Suite 600
    Washington, DC 20036
    Phone: 202.861.0258 (TTY)
    Fax: 202.466.3226
    Website: www.deafdawn.org
    Population Served: Deaf of hearing and Deaf-Blind individuals.
    Services: On-going weekly survivors support group, 24-hour TTY hotline, outreach, education and training for community agencies, organizations and service providers.
    DVRP ASIAN/PACIFIC ISLANDER DOMESTIC VIOLENCE RESOURCE PROJECT
    PO Box 14268
    Washington, DC 20044
    Phone: 202.464.4477
    Fax: 202.986.9332
    Website: www.dvrp.org
    Population Served: Women who are in or were in abusive relationships.
    Services Provided: Helps domestic violence survivors access resources and improve their safety regardless of income level, immigration status, and English language proficiency.   DVRP services include: peer support, safety planning, interpretation and translation, court accompaniment, emergency transportation, financial empowerment, assistance in applying for public benefits, referrals for shelter, legal and social service and other support services, as needed
    Notes: DVRP has advocates who speak: Cantonese, Farsi, Hindi, Hmong, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Nepal, Punjabi, Tagalog, Thai, Vietnamese and Urdu
    RAMONA’S WAY
    1328 Southern Avenue, SE Suite 311 (Medical Services Building)
    Greater Southeast Hospital, Domestic Violence Intake Center
    Washington, DC 20032
    Phone: 202.561.3000/202.257.6790
    Website: www.ramonasway.org
    Population Served: Chemically dependent women that are survivors of emotional and physical abuse.
    Services: Ramona’s Way provides individual counseling, case management, education, advocacy, support groups, alternative therapies, information and referrals, safe.
    WOMEN EMPOWERED AGAINST DOMESTIC VIOLENCE (WEAVE)
    1111 16th Street, NW Suite 200
    Washington, DC 20036
    Phone: 202.452.9550
    Fax: 202.452.8255
    Website: www.weaveincorp.org
    Population Served: Single, adult women, women with children, and teen survivors of relationship violence and abuse.
    Services Provided: Emergency civil legal protection assistance, safety and needs assessments, full legal representation, advice and mentoring for self representation, group and individual counseling, clinical case management, economic empowerment, teen dating violence services, education and training, technical assistance for attorneys and referrals for other services.
    Notes: WEAVE will help victims of domestic violence regardless of their income level. However, whenever appropriate, WEAVE utilizes a moderate scale for individuals with means.