The Night Jane Realized Her Children Were in Danger, We Found Them a Place to Stay. Now the Program That Helped Them Faces Cuts in Olympia.

With just a couple of weeks left in the state legislative session, it’s a critical time to speak up for laws that will help end homelessness. We’re highlighting how state policies affect communities across the state, and sharing simple actions you can take to ensure everybody has the opportunity to live in a safe, healthy, affordable home. Today Sarah Foley from YWCA of Spokane, a new member of the Firesteel network, shares a story from her community.

Written by Sarah Foley, Associate Director of Counseling and Outreach, YWCA of Spokane

SarahF_picThrough the YWCA Spokane’s Alternatives to Domestic Violence Program, victims and survivors can access a 24-hour crisis hotline, counseling, education, legal advocacy, and shelter. In 2012, we provided shelter to 313 adults and 243 children. These services are vital to our community, where one in three women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.

Jane* is one of these survivors. She called the crisis line one evening after the situation at home became unsafe for her and her two children. No other emergency shelters had space, but the YWCA Safe Shelter was able to provide transportation for Jane and her kids to the confidentially located facility, and got them set up with a room that night.

They stayed in the shelter for almost two months while waiting for permanent housing. During those months, domestic violence advocates and a child advocate helped the family develop a safety plan and begin to cope with the trauma they had experienced.

Once Jane arrived at the shelter, she signed up for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which provides cash grants and medical help to families in need. The cash benefit for a family of three with no other income is $478 a month, so, after taking care of the basics, Jane had very little extra money. Had our shelter not been able to accept her and her children, she would have had to stay in her car, or remain in the home where violence was escalating.

Our YWCA Confidential Safe Shelter receives funding from document recording fees and support from the Housing Trust Fund. The document recording fees have also supported the YWCA as we have opened a second shelter in Spokane Valley. This state funding has been so important to domestic violence survivors, as it has helped to provide them with a place to rest, sort out feelings, decide what is next, and get information and support to make changes.

*This survivor’s name has been changed for her family’s safety and privacy.

Take action to protect services like Safe Shelter

Programs like Safe Shelter are in danger across the state. If lawmakers allow fees for some real-estate-related document filings to expire, then funding for programs that are preventing and ending homelessness would be cut by more than 60 percent. Many services for our most vulnerable neighbors — domestic violence survivors, veterans, people living with mental illness — will scale down or close. That’s why we’re advocating for the Homeless Housing and Assistance Surcharge Bill, as well as investment in the Housing Trust Fund.

We need for you to speak up, too. Please call 1.800.562.6000 and leave a message like this for your lawmakers:

Please make sure the homeless housing and assistance surcharge fees don’t sunset by supporting ESHB 2368. And neither the House nor the Senate Capital Budget invests enough in affordable housing. Please help ensure all Washington residents have opportunities for safe, healthy affordable homes by making a deeper investment in affordable housing.” 

(Thanks to the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance for leading the advocacy charge on these priorities.)

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