Posted on November 30, 2012 at 4:16 pm
We are excited to report that City Council has approved $3 million in funding to support 100 additional shelter beds and other housing resources for victims of domestic violence in Philadelphia!
This incredible news is the result of sustained advocacy and broad community support: a combined mammoth effort of dedicated domestic violence advocates, passionate Women Against Abuse staff members, political leaders who recognized the pressing need for increased domestic violence resources in Philadelphia, and vital community supporters who listened and raised their voices.
Throughout the past three years, Women Against Abuse (WAA) has emphasized in numerous reports the dramatic number of individuals we have been forced to turn away from our 100-bed emergency shelter — the only shelter in the city specifically designed and equipped for the safety needs of survivors of domestic violence.
In 2008, WAA was forced to turn away 1,705 requests for safety in shelter due to limited capacity. Less than four years later, this number skyrocketed to more than 8,400 turned away requests.
This figure represents thousands of women and children in imminent danger who must find alternative sources of emergency housing — sometimes in other emergency shelters that are not intended to maintain the safety, privacy and confidentiality of residents, and other times in domestic violence shelters in neighboring counties. Counselors on the Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline have had to call domestic violence shelters in areas as far as Harrisburg before they could find a safe place for a woman and her children.
To raise awareness for this dire shortage, Women Against Abuse rallied community support through ongoing advocacy campaigns, engaged in ongoing discussion with political allies, and collaborated with domestic violence advocates to promote public awareness.
In particular, this past spring Women Against Abuse testified before the Public Safety Committee of City Council, chaired by Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., at the invitation of Councilman Kenyatta Johnson to highlight the burgeoning need for increased shelter for victims of domestic violence in Philadelphia. This key turning point enabled domestic violence advocates from Women Against Abuse and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV), Women’s Law Project, the University of Pennsylvania, survivors of domestic violence, and other advocates to raise awareness for the dramatic dearth of funding for domestic violence services, especially safe shelter. PCADV Policy and Special Projects Manager Nicole Lindemyer provided statistical analysis that illustrated how Philadelphia has proportionately fewer dedicated resources for victims of domestic violence compared to other regions in Pennsylvania. Susan Sorenson, Director of the Evelyn Jacobs Ortner Center on Family Violence at the University of Pennsylvania highlighted that nearly half of annual femicides are intimate partner homicides, therefore suggesting that increased resources for intervention, such as shelter, could save lives. This testimony resulted in significant coverage in local papers, including a Philadelphia Inquirer editorial titled “Safe Havens in Short Supply.”
This October, following City Council’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month Proclamation sponsored by Councilmembers Marian Tasco, William Greenlee, and Blondell Reynolds Brown, Women Against Abuse was invited to speak to City Council regarding the state of current services. Women Against Abuse, along with members of the Philadelphia Domestic Violence Collaborative, again expressed the devastating shortage of shelter and other resources for intervention. Councilmembers and their staff agreed that the extreme scarcity of services for survivors in Philadelphia was a public safety concern. A follow up meeting between Women Against Abuse leaders and Councilmembers Tasco, Reynolds Brown, Greenlee and Jannie Blackwell further demonstrated City Council’s commitment to addressing the lack of resources.
Councilmembers also responded to a timely report, "Violence Against Women in Philadelphia," released by the University of Pennsylvania Ortner Center, which holistically captured the impact of domestic violence on city systems. Notably, the report highlighted that the thousands of women and children who are turned away from Women Against Abuse’s shelter end up in general homeless shelters, where they fill 37 percent of beds.
Councilmembers recognized domestic violence services as a key priority in establishing the city budget. As a result, on November 27, 2012, City Council passed Bill No. 120818 which tabs $3 million for an additional 100 shelter beds as well as other housing resources for survivors of domestic violence.
We are greatly energized by City Council’s support for increased domestic violence resources in Philadelphia and remain deeply committed to advocating on behalf of survivors.