Seattle has a long track record of working to reduce domestic violence.  We have a strong enforcement system and have worked hard to fund counseling, batterer’s treatment, and programs to protect victims/survivors.  I received an award from the King County Coalition Against Domestic Violence for my work to fund legal representation for domestic violence victims/survivors.

The Council identified working on domestic violence issues as one of our priorities for 2010.  There are still too many incidents (90,750 in King County in 2009) and too few resources to assist survivors.  While Seattle has one of the best domestic violence programs in the country, there are still issues that need work, and there is always a need for more education and awareness.

Our research has concluded that providing housing for domestic violence victims is one of the most critical community needs, and we are focusing our attention on this issue for 2010.  In Washington State, there were 6,147 women and children sheltered, but 36,522 turned away by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) funded domestic violence shelters in 2009.  The City’s budget for this year and the 2011-2012 biennium will be very tight, and it will be difficult to find funding resources.  However, the model developed by Councilmember Burgess that is creating safe housing for youth who have been rescued after being forced into prostitution may also work to create housing for domestic violence survivors.

Essentially this means leveraging small amounts of public funds with creative partnerships with the private sector and foundations.  Some organizations that provide safe housing, such as New Beginnings, already use this approach.  We think that there may be additional opportunities that could be developed.

Domestic violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness for women, and it has often not been part of the discussion of community housing programs.  Victims/survivors face considerable challenges in accessing the safe shelters and  transitional and permanent housing that is critical for their long term safety.

Work on this problem will kick off with a noon forum at the Central Library on Friday, September 17 in the WaMu Conference Room (level four).  The purpose of this forum is to evaluate the current capacity for housing domestic violence victims/survivors, and to identify key areas where more capacity is needed — emergency shelters, transitional housing and permanent housing programs.  A panel of domestic violence housing providers and clients will discuss the issues and respond to questions from Councilmembers. The goal is to gather information from the community and create a set of feasible recommendations for policy implementation.

This program is designed to provide Councilmembers and the public with resources that will help us to:

  • Learn how stable housing is essential for victims/survivors and their children to achieve and maintain safety;
  • Have a better understanding about the housing needs and resources for domestic violence survivors;
  • identify partnerships that the City may develop with community partners, funders and private donors;
  • Start the process of developing policy goals around sustainable housing solutions for victims.

In preparation for our work on this critical issue, Councilmembers will take a training course on domestic violence on June 28, conducted by the Human Services Department, using the model they have developed for City employees.  The goal is to have Councilmembers gain an understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking and become familiar with current policy and rules.