Ashwin Parulkar, Senior Research Specialist
On March 18, 2022, City Council tabled a bill which intends to formalize a housing stability program for survivors of domestic violence by ensuring ‘low-barrier’ financial assistance and counseling, health, housing, and legal services to survivors who earn gross annual incomes less than 300 percent of the federal poverty line. The bill is formally called “Establishing a housing stability program for survivors of domestic and gender-based violence” (Int 0153-2022). It requires The Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-based Violence (ENDGBV), the Department of Social Services (DSS), and ‘designated’ ‘community-based’ ‘organizations’ to establish the program to provide NYCs eligible survivors, including the homeless, these financial, health and social service benefits. This bill, therefore, authorizes a multi-stakeholder system of government & community-based agencies to design and implement, a system to deliver the bill’s provisions. It was passed by City Council on October 27, 2022, and signed into law by Mayor Adams on November 22, 2022.
This brief evaluates how effectively domestic violence support programs in other cities have provided services to homeless survivors under similar multi-stakeholder arrangements to ascertain how the bill would enable the agencies it identifies to provide NYC’s homeless survivors its proposed benefits.
Effectiveness of domestic violence shelter-based programs
In Sullivan’s review most survivors who availed domestic violence support services, including in shelters (Sullivan, 2012), reported that these amenities reduced experiences of future violence and trauma-related symptoms. For instance, 260 domestic violence shelter users in Wisconsin indicated that these services were more effective (44%) than any other formal service they had received, while 72% reported that these services had slightly to very effectively reduced violence against them (Bowker and Maurer, 1985). A study conducted two decades later had similar results: 79% of women reported that shelter stays reduced violence against them (Goodkind, Sullivan & Bybee, 2004).
A study on the impact of domestic violence shelters on reducing clients’ trauma-related symptoms found that 100% of respondents had increased levels of self-esteem upon leaving shelter, 99% felt more hopeful, and 97% reported having knowledge of more ways to keep themselves and their children safe (Tutty 2006). This study also found that the provision of multiple services to survivors, e.g., planning, housing, and employment, was associated with an accurate understanding by staff of their clients’ difficult life experiences. 81% of women reported desiring emotional support, 80% safety services and 33% a combination of safety, counseling, and housing assistance (Tutty, 2006)
Effectiveness of multi-stakeholder systems of service delivery to survivors of domestic violence
An American Journal of Community Psychology review (Allen et al., 2008) found that multi-stakeholder models were able to make needed, timely institutional changes to deliver domestic violence support services to their clients. The review attributed the following processes to this successful outcome :
- sharing information (51%) – collectively, stakeholders agreed on the services they needed to provide survivors.
- addressing gaps in the system (85%) – multiple stakeholders followed specific cases to learn how to adjust their practices to adhere to policy mandates.
- providing or supporting trainings of key stakeholders (95%) – trainings were provided to staff of criminal justice systems and human service provider agencies.
- Engaging in public/community domestic violence & survivor education (73%) – mass media campaigns and targeted information sessions promoted knowledge on domestic violence and facilitated relationships between implementing stakeholders and service-using clients. These relationships enabled institutional changes that were required to respond to the needs of domestic violence survivors (Allen et al., 2008:67-70).
Assessment of the Bill
The brief literature review indicates that domestic violence programs for homeless survivors can reduce their risks to future violence and trauma-related symptoms when social workers accurately identify their needs and ensure appropriate services for them. In this context, the New York City legislation is an essential step in addressing the needs of this population. However, similar multi-stakeholder systems often fail to deliver services to beneficiaries when decisions are made in a ‘top-down’ fashion (Jann and Wegrich 2007:52).
That is why the input from ‘community-based’ ‘organizations’ that work closely with survivors will be essential to implementing critical aspects of the legislation. The first component is determining the program’s application & assessment procedures. The second is determining the specific levels of services for various client risk categories, which may be constituted by levels of trauma.
The review of the literature also shows that multi-stakeholder models of domestic violence service delivery are successful when all institutions can adjust processes to meet the needs of survivors. Successful processes are those in which (a.) information is shared between stakeholders to identify services and address system gaps (b.) trainings are provided to stakeholders to equip them with the right skills to provide benefits and (c) awareness on the needs of survivors is created through education programs.
Achieving this level of flexibility is also crucial to implementing the legislation. The law mandates that ‘coordination’ between The Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-based Violence, DSS and ‘designated agencies’ should occur as ‘consultations’ at each major stage of design and implementation. These stages include:
- the ‘establishment’ of the ‘domestic violence survivor housing stability program’ itself (Section 1)
- the terms of availability regarding the ‘the application for the program, [the] process of disbursement’ of financial assistance and ‘the provision of domestic violence-related services to program participants’ (Section 2); and
- outreach efforts and preparing & submitting the initial program report (Section 3).
In this context, The Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-based Violence should also ensure that these consultations occur as a regular process, e.g.,after the 180-day progress report is submitted. Consistent engagement among stakeholders is crucial to ensuring that each agency can make required institutional changes that may be needed to address the needs of domestic violence survivors. The success of other multi-stakeholder domestic violence service systems was undermined when agencies did not consistently engage each other on critical tasks and decisions (Roussos and Fawcett, 2000, Lasker and Weiss, 2003).
Allen, N. E., Watt, K. A. & Hess, J. Z. (2008). A Qualitative Study of the Activities and Outcomes of Domestic Violence Coordinating councils, American Journal of Community Psychology, 41:63-73
Bowker, L.H. & Maurer, L. (1985). The importance of sheltering in the lives of battered women. Response to the Victimization of Women & Children, Response, 8, 1
Establishing a housing stability program for survivors of domestic and gender-based violence, New York City Council, Int 0153-2022
Goodkind, J., Sullivan, C.M., & Bybee, D.I. (2004). A contextual analysis of battered women’s safety planning. Violence Against Women, 10, 514-533.
Jann, W. & Wegrich, K. (2007). Theories of the Policy Cycle. pp 43-62, in (Eds) Fischer, F., Miller, G., and Sidney, M. Handbook of Public Policy Analysis: Theory , Politics, and Methods. Boca Raton: CRC Press (Taylor & Francis Group)
Lasker, R. D., & Weiss, E. S. (2003). Broadening participation in community problem solving: A multidisciplinary model to support collaborative practice and research. Journal of Urbana Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 80(1), 14–47.
Macy, R. J., Giattina, M., Sangster, T. H., Crosby, C., & Montijo, N. J. (2009). Domestic violence and sexual assault services: Inside the black box. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 14, 359-373.
Roussos, S. T., & Fawcett, S. B. (2000). A review of collaborative partnerships as a strategy for improving community health. Annual Review Public Health, 21, 369–402.
Sullivan, C.M. (2010). Victim services for domestic violence. In M.P. Koss, J.W. White, & A.E. Kazdin (Eds), Violence against women and children: Navigating solutions. Volume 2 (pp 183-197). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Sullivan, C.M. (2012, October). Domestic Violence Shelter Services: A Review of the Empirical Evidence, Harrisburg, PA: National Resource Center on Domestic Violence. Retrieved month/day year, from: http://www.dvevidenceproject.org.
Tutty, L.M. (2006). Effective practices in sheltering women leaving violence in intimate relationships. Toronto, Ontario: YWCA Canada.
 The legislation states that financial assistance ‘may be used towards’ ‘but not limited to’ (1) ‘costs of a safety plan’ (2) ‘housing costs’ (3) ‘legal service costs’ (4) ‘medical bills’ (5) ‘mobile phone costs’ and (6) ‘moving’ and ‘transportation costs’ (Int 0153-2022)
 The legislation defines ‘community-based organizations’ as ‘a community-based organization that works with survivors of domestic violence who are English language learners, homeless (emphasis added), immigrants, individuals with a criminal history, individuals with disabilities, the LGBTQ community, or communities of color.’ (ibid)
 It is the duty under this legislation of ENDGBV to protect the personal information of program applicants and participants. All other implementation duties discussed in this paragraph require some degree of coordination between the three listed stakeholders. (ibid)
 ‘The office’ is the legislation’s state administrator. DSS is the consultative government agency. Designated organizations are site level implementers. In this context, the office ‘administrates’ – i.e., supplies and/or regulates processes of – program applications, disbursements of grants, services, written and other awareness materials in consultation with ‘designated organizations’. ‘The office’ also issues the progress report to the Mayor and Speaker of the Council after the first 180 days of the program. (ibid)
 Sullivan reviewed 17 studies pertaining to DV programs in individual states, e.g. Wisconsin, and across the United States and Canada (Sullivan, 2012)
 Services in surveyed domestic violence shelters included ‘counselor advocates’ (Sullivan 2010) that ‘work[ed] with survivors to identify and meet family’s unmet needs’, such as ‘children’s school [enrollments]…employment or training opportunities, [and] health care.’ Shelters also provided legal rights awareness, educational and support groups, and safety planning (Macy et al., 2009). Cited in Sullivan, 2012:3
 6% noted that violence upon them had increased (Bowker and Maurer, 1985)
 10% reported increased violence (Goodkind, Sullivan & Bybee, 2004)
 These respondents indicated that they “deserved better” (Tutty 2006)
 The review analyzed 41 domestic violence service coordinating councils in the Midwest, which were comprised of government and social service agencies (and ‘often led by local shelter programs’) (Allen et al., 2008)
 law enforcement and relevant attorney’s offices (Allen et al., 2008)
 child protective services and healthcare providers
 Public service announcements (Allen et al., 2008)
 This included the distribution of brochures & pamphlets to communities, the dissemination of victims’ handbooks & children’s coloring books to survivors, and seminars for law enforcement, probation, and social service agencies (Allen et al., 2008)