Homeless in Austin experiencing increase in domestic violence
There are fewer homeless people in Austin in 2017, according to an annual report from the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition report. At the same time, the annual point-in-time survey points to a more than 28 percent increase in the number of homeless people who report experiencing domestic violence. And what it may come down to is people leaving violent relationships end up homeless.
"Many, many times the fact that you are in a domestic violence situation leads to homelessness," said Melinda Cantu of SAFE. The organization is a recent merger between Safe Place and Austin Children's Shelter. The numbers are not because there is more domestic violence. Instead, Cantu says it is reported more. "I think that people are reaching out in a different way; I think that people are talking about it in different way," she said.
Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo was one of the 500 volunteers who took part in gathering the information. "Something that as a community we need to be mindful of and really support those social service organizations who are working to affect change," Tovo said of organizations like SAFE, that help victims of domestic violence. Tovo agrees Austin's affordability issues make it harder for survivors. "Definitely the high cost of housing is a factor," she said.
The staff at SAFE says a violent relationship can make it worse. "Many times they are not able to have jobs, they're not able to have other connections with other people," Cantu said. But now, domestic violence is being looked at as one of the reasons Austinites might go homeless. "If you choose to leave, there's not a lot of places to go."
SAFE has an emergency shelter and a transitional housing program for people leaving violent relationships, and there is some help, say with a first month's rent, available. They also have a hotline and a chat line.