Finding Safe and Permanent Homes Using Emergency Housing Vouchers

Finding Safe and Permanent Homes Using Emergency Housing Vouchers

Recognizing that housing is a human right, and that safe, permanent housing often provides the foundation for healing from violence and trauma, Womankind hosted our first Housing Roundtable on March 26, 2024 to dive deeply into this issue. Guest speakers shared their experience, discussed housing programs in New York City, Emergency Housing Vouchers (EHV), how to practice housing justice, and celebrated Womankind's success with securing housing for survivors and their families.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, emerging data and reports from those on the front lines have shown that gender-based violence has intensified. In 2022, the NYC Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence (ENDGBV) was allocated 1,168 Emergency Housing Vouchers (EHV) that would be dedicated to survivors fleeing or attempting to flee violence. Womankind was able to refer 82 survivors through ENDGBV while the program was open. Ultimately, 57 survivors were able to move with EHV (more statistics available here). On average, the monthly rent subsidy provided was $2,187. The success of the program, which ended in 2023, shows the lack of similar programs in the city and the United States at large.

Navigating the housing process could be confusing, so having a housing navigator program through EHV was instrumental in helping bridge the gaps. Through this initiative, survivors had a wider range of neighborhoods to choose from, including higher-opportunity zip codes. “Federal funding made the program amazing, allowing clients to apply in high-income areas, which you can’t do with [other voucher programs],” said Stan Khaldarov, Esq., Client Resources Manager (formerly the Supervising Housing Navigator) at Queens Defenders.

Those who took part in the fledgling program found that it was not without its challenges. For one thing, smaller buildings with private landlords were reluctant to accept the new Emergency Housing Vouchers. “Landlords are more willing to accept NYCHA and Section 8 as they are more familiar with it,” said Divya Desai, Residential Advocate at Womankind. Additionally, survivors don’t only go through source of income discrimination, but also an intersection of gender discrimination, disability discrimination and other systematic bureaucracy, all of which can be deeply traumatizing for the survivor.

I.V., an older Korean immigrant survivor of gender-based violence who is building her path to healing at Womankind, shared her story. It was a sobering reminder of the larger forces at work against voucher recipients. After moving from shelter to shelter, and with a son attending college, I.V.’s advocate at Womankind helped her receive an EHV for a one-bedroom apartment for herself. But then her landlord began harassing her by depriving her of basic utilities. She had to transfer her voucher—a bureaucratic nightmare for anyone, especially someone who isn’t familiar with the technology, culture, or language. Although I.V. wished the process was shorter, less stressful , and had more language support, she ultimately ended up in a new home and was thankful to receive the support from Womankind and EHV (more survivor stories available here).

This roundtable was the culmination of a diligent research project on Womankind’s experience with the Emergency Housing Voucher program, led by Katie Zhang, Womankind's Housing Specialist. We extend our gratitude to the following speakers for sharing their time, knowledge, and experience with us:

Jennifer DeCarli, Esq., MSW, Deputy Commissioner for Family Justice Centers and Survivor Supports, Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence (ENDGBV)

Divya Desai, Residential Advocate, Womankind

Stan Khaldarov, Esq., Client Resources Manager, Queens Defenders

I.V., Survivor Speaker, Womankind

Jessica Valencia, Head of Communications, Unlock NYC

Moderated by Katie Zhang, Housing Specialist, Womankind