Housing’s effect on domestic violence

The following article is part two of a five-week series focusing on raising awareness about domestic violence. October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and we hope to educate our community on this very serious issue. One in 3 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Locally, the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center has been serving victims of domestic and dating violence, sexual assault and child abuse since 1978. Last year, HCWC served 1,872 victims of abuse (face-toface) from Hays and Caldwell Counties. 1,050 of those were victims of domestic violence.

The most common questions asked about victims of domestic violence are, “Why did she go back?” or “Why does she stay?” The answer more often than not is that she had NOWHERE else to go. Most of us go home at night and sleep peacefully in our own beds. We’ve never had to make the choice between living in fear and facing homelessness.

We regularly see articles and news reports highlighting the rapid growth and development in Central Texas. San Marcos in particular has been recognized as one the fastest growing communities in the nation. Looking around the community, where beautiful new homes, and mixed use developments are becoming as common a sight as tubers floating the river and university students strolling through downtown, it might be easy to miss what is happening behind closed doors.

We know that there is a serious shortage of affordable housing in our communities. The current housing situation is impacting people across a broad range of socioeconomic levels. Middle class families are finding themselves priced out the housing market with the median household income $34,240 and the average home price almost 6 times that, leaving these families’ only option to rent a home or apartment. The rental market is incredibly limited and families must compete with University students already struggling to find affordable housing.

Reasonably priced housing in Central Texas is incredibly difficult to find in an ideal situation; unfortunately, for victims of domestic violence their situations are never ideal. The additional safety needs required for a victim, attempting to leave an abuser, can make finding safe, affordable housing option near impossible. Hays and Caldwell counties have experienced incredible population growth over the past five years and current estimates project a pattern of continued growth over the next few years.

The destruction of available subsidized housing by flood waters has created an even more precarious housing situation for victims fleeing violent homes. A family violence shelter provides a temporary emergency housing solution. The shelters have the capacity to house multiple families at a time, but only for short term stays, and the waiting lists for Section 8 Vouchers and placement into government subsidized housing can be as long as 3 years.

The greatest barrier to a victim’s safety is often the lack of affordable housing and unfortunately, without the availability of local transitional housing we have limited resources to help provide for our clients’ safety. Now more than ever, victims are being forced to return to a violent home because they simply have nowhere else to go.

The situation may sound hopeless, and victims often feel that it is, but an engaged community that works together to find a solution can create positive change. No, we cannot suddenly create more affordable housing options, but we can make an effort to be understanding and supportive of victims and provide assistance where we can.

There are ways that YOU can become involved and help end domestic violence in YOUR community. This month we’re once again partnering with local restaurants in several of the towns we serve in Hays and Caldwell counties for our annual Dining for Change program. Each restaurant will not only help us increase awareness about domestic violence but also have agreed to donate a portion of proceeds to HCWC.

Help us by attending on these dates for San Marcos: 10/10 – Grin’s Restaurant, 10/17 and 10/24 – Loli’s Café, 10/18 - Black’s BBQ in San Marcos and 10/19 - Mochas and Java’s on LBJ. For Wimberley: 10/10 - The Back Porch, 10/11 - Wimberley Café and 10/25 - The Leaning Pear. For Buda: the entire month of October daily from 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. at Buda Drug Store. For Lockhart: 10/25 - Blacks BBQ.

For more information about services, please call HCWC at 512-396-3404 or visit www.hcwc.org.

Cunningham-Kizer is coordinator of HCWC’s Community Partnerships

San Marcos Daily Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666