“I wish people knew that homelessness looks more than one way. I feel like they hear in the news that homeless people want to stay on the street, that we don’t want services. A small percentage might not, but what about us? What about us moms with kids looking everywhere for a place that will rent to us? I think people just hear that and believe it so they can sleep better at night. They go home to their warm beds, and where do we go?”
This is one of the many pained testimonies I overhear while working at the Broadview Emergency Shelter & Transitional Housing Program, which provides for women, children and youth experiencing homelessness, most of whom are exiting domestic violence.
This particular mother was lamenting the realities of homelessness after receiving her “Last Night,” a dreaded document that informs families their shelter stay has to come to an end to make room for new families. Unfortunately, shelter stays are very short – and while there, they are expected to find a job, childcare and secure housing in King County’s extremely competitive housing market.
Homelessness is so much more than Tent Cities and people sleeping outside. To better serve the 10,000 adults and children experiencing homelessness in King County, we must start with better understanding of why people become homeless. And domestic violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness in our community and across the country.
“I just don’t see how that’s possible, even for someone who has it completely together and didn’t just have to flee for their lives. But I’m a fighter, believe me, I’ll make it work. I have to, for my kids…” Her voice trails off.
I think back to when I first met her; even with visible bruises on her skin from her abuser, she was upbeat and positive. She shares she used to work as a pharmacist, and lived a typical middle-class life, taking family vacations and volunteering in her children’s school.
It all went downhill when she met her ex-boyfriend, who was initially charming and helpful before turning verbally and physically abusive. “I was blindsided. I wish I never met him. But, here I am.”
Overcoming domestic violence is incredibly complex due to issues with safety, parental rights, eviction issues, etc. Living with domestic violence has been described by a resident as “a tornado tearing through a home,” taking with it any feeling of safety or security for the survivor and her children. It impacts every socioeconomic and racial group, although stereotypes often paint domestic violence as an issue only impacting poor people of color. Some of the most lethal abusers we have seen have been upper-class white men.
Domestic violence truly can happen to anyone, and its impact is far-reaching. Kids that live through domestic violence are often constantly on alert, and their toxic stress impacts their behavior and health outcomes. “I hate that my kids still have nightmares that he’ll find us. I hope once we get a house again they’ll feel a little safer. We’re just in a constant state of fear, and having no affordable housing options around here just leads to the stress,” one survivor shares.
A safe haven at Broadview
Broadview’s 24/7 secure location provides safety and security. Our team of housing counselors, child advocates, specialized service providers and volunteers creates a flexible array of resources to support residents’ healing from trauma and moving on in their lives. Age-specific and culturally appropriate services include weekly education/support groups and recreational activities for children and youth; weekly individual goal-setting meetings with the women; and weekly onsite domestic violence support group, money management support group, and parenting support group for mothers, including childcare.
Another Broadview resident shares, “Broadview was a godsend. I’m trying to get my kids back from CPS, and this was really the only program that had the wraparound support plus the domestic violence confidentiality. I stayed here as a kid, and knew Broadview would be a positive place for me to return to and get my life back together.”
We serve as a critical stepping stone, giving women and their children the chance to meet immediate needs for safety and shelter while working on the issues that led to their displacement.
The former pharmacist has moved on from Broadview and taken the next steps toward a better life for herself and her kids. You can help make sure Broadview is there to open the door and support the next woman who arrives.
Please donate today (you can designate your gift to “Prevent & End Homelessness”), or volunteer to tutor, mentor and support our young residents. For volunteer opportunities, visit our Volunteer webpage and scroll down to view Broadview listings under the “Housing & Support Services” header.