District Alliance for Safe Housing and the Domestic Violence and Housing Taskforce

In April 2009, DASH convened and spearheaded the Washington, D.C. Domestic Violence and Housing Taskforce (Taskforce) to address and alleviate systemic barriers facing victims of domestic violence in housing and shelter. The idea for the Taskforce came from “Florida’s Plan To Address the Housing Needs of Domestic Violence Victims” that was published by the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence. DASH’s Taskforce utilized the outstanding foundation of Florida’s plan and took it to the next level by institutionalizing partnerships through the Taskforce, a vehicle for ongoing, coordinated, community response with specific objectives and activities to help measure effectiveness and change. The DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence had a modicum of funding to support staff time to co-coordinate the taskforce, but beyond that, there were no designated funds.

Collaborative Partners

The Taskforce was a partnership with local and federal government agencies and non-profit organizations. Members included the Districts domestic violence residential programs, domestic violence and housing legal service providers (including Legal Aid), homeless/housing providers, the D.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence, two national non-profits, the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness (coordinator of the District’s Continuum of Care on behalf of the city), the D.C. Office of Human Rights, D.C. Office of Victim Services and D.C. Crime Victims Compensation Program. Collaboratively, the Taskforce identified three goals and worked steadily to achieve them.


Goals and Accomplishments

The Taskforce identified three key goals:

  1. Enhance access and safety for domestic violence survivors in federal and district funded housing and shelter programs;
  2. Enhance access and improve services for domestic violence survivors with a multitude of needs; and
  3. Increase public awareness around the unique set of housing barriers domestic violence survivors face and implement strategies for addressing them. The Taskforce has had great success in reaching these goals.

One of the first steps in this process was to develop relationships with the D.C. Department of Human Services and D.C. Housing Authority (DCHA) and work with them to eliminate barriers for survivors.

Based on collaborative efforts to identify the needs of survivors in the community and the agencies working with them on housing-related issues, the Taskforce created and disseminated several documents:

  1. A chart for victims showing where and how they can enter the housing system;
  2. An Interagency Council on Homelessness Public Comment, Talking Points on Domestic Violence & Housing, as well as an attachment that outlined a parallel/coordinated response system vision;
  3. A DCHA VAWA/local housing protection Compliance Document; and
  4. Emergency Transfer Policy for DCHA.

The Taskforce also created a working group to work specifically with the D.C. Public Housing Authority. Through this working group, Taskforce members gained an understanding of Public Housing operations, Section 8 vouchers, and procedures for transfers and placements, and were able to develop and implement strategies to address the identified facing many survivors. In addition, we developed and implemented training and education on local and federal housing protections for survivors (audiences included DCHA Office of General Council, DCHA housing managers, and homeless/housing providers). We worked to improve safety within D.C. shelters by providing technical assistance to programs, providing public comment regarding the Homeless System Reform Act regulations (specific to survivor safety), and working with DHS General Council to implement comments.

While there is much more to do, the efforts of this Taskforce, the partnerships and relationships built amongst these stakeholders, began to enhance access to safe housing for survivors and their children in the District.

For more information on this innovative solution, please contact DASH.