Half of homeless domestic-violence victims feel unsafe in city shelters, according to a new survey that critics say highlights the failure of the de Blasio administration to address a growing crisis.
Last year, for the first time in recent history, domestic abuse became the single largest cause of homelessness in the city, surpassing even evictions.
Yet the city only has the capacity to house just 23 percent in specialized shelters designed to protect them, newly released figures show.
That means that 12,540 victims — or more than 75 percent, mainly women and children — are being housed in regular shelters with publicly available addresses, making it easier for their abusers to track them down, and no dedicated services such as trauma counseling.
“Domestic-violence survivors are the forgotten face of homelessness.” said former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who now runs Women in Need, or WIN, an organization that houses homeless families.
“Our [homeless] system is driven by domestic violence, yet it is not structured or funded to address domestic violence,’’ she said.
Carol Corden, head of the nonprofit New Destiny Housing, which provides apartments to victims, worked with the Family Homelessness Coalition to conduct the survey of domestic-abuse sufferers in city shelters.
Fifty percent of victims said they felt unsafe “most” or “all of the time,” 55 percent didn’t know about city services to prevent homelessness and 44 percent received no help searching for affordable housing, according to the survey, which was administered by the Settlement Housing Fund.
Corden blamed de Blasio for the “neglect” of the victims, saying he is too focused on street homeless, who are largely single men.
She noted that the mayor’s 128-page “Turning the Tide on Homelessness” report released in 2017 dedicated just one page to survivors.
And the only recommendation was to add shelter beds when what many victims need is more stable housing.
Former shelter resident Shanieka Wakefield knows firsthand how crucial specialized shelters can be.
She said she went into a regular city shelter with her infant daughter in 2018 because of an abusive boyfriend, who sent her to the hospital 20 times between 2016 and 2019.
Wakefield said she spent the next year in and out of the shelter — periodically returning to live with her baby’s father because she didn’t feel any safer in the facility and had no other option.
“I was really trapped,” said the 30-year-old mom, who now has two kids.
She finally got her own apartment in the Bronx through a New Destiny program in September.
“I’m really, really grateful, because if it wasn’t for this program, I’d still be trapped in the shelter or probably going back to my abuser and repeating the same thing,” Wakefield said.
Quinn also laid the blame for a broken system squarely at the feet of the mayor, who still hasn’t made good on his 2015 pledge of 400 new specialized housing units for victims.
Just 119 have opened, another 176 are expected to be available this year, and the final 167 due to open in 2021, according to a City Hall spokesman.
“Live up to the promise you made Mayor de Blasio four years ago to build more domestic violence-specific shelter,” Quinn said.
City Comptroller Scott Stringer echoed Quinn’s concerns.
He got “radio silence” from administration officials after releasing a sweeping report in October about domestic abuse becoming the single largest cause of homelessness in the city.
“We have more people going into homeless shelters due to domestic violence than ever before, yet there is no comprehensive plan to help survivors,” Stringer said.
“They just don’t seem to care,” Stringer said of City Hall.
Sixty-two victims were killed by their abusers in New York City last year — seven more than 2018 — largely by strangulation and slashing. That’s seven more victims than the year before and the highest figure since the 63 in 2016.
The victims accounted for one in every six homicides in New York City last year.
Quinn pleaded with the mayor to do something before the problem gets worse.
“See the survivors who are not getting served, who are still living in fear,” she said.
Isaac McGinnis, spokesman for the city’s Department of Social Services, which oversees the shelters, said in an e-mail to The Post, “This Administration has funded an unprecedented expansion of resources dedicated to supporting survivors as they get back on their feet, including those survivors who have also experienced homelessness.
“From offering free legal services, to opening 300 new emergency beds, to awarding 400 new units of DV [domestic-violence] shelter, which is more-than doubling the total number of dedicated DV shelter units citywide, from just 243 at the end of the Bloomberg Administration to nearly 650, we are leaving no stone unturned in our effort to protect and empower survivors and end this scourge once and for all.”
Source: Read Full Article