By Pat Butler, Director, Sojourn

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month which evolved from the “Day of Unity” first held in 1981 to connect advocates across the U.S. who were working to stop violence against women and their children. Domestic violence is a serious yet preventable crime and public health epidemic that continues to affect millions of Americans. Each year, approximately 12 million people are victims of physical violence, sexual abuse, psychological aggression, or stalking. This equates to nearly 24 people per minute. While the majority of these victims are female – about 1 in 4 women have experience domestic violence – there are male victims as well, including gay and transgender people. The perpetrators, by and large, are the victims’ intimate partners or close acquaintances but may also be parents, grown children, siblings, blood and non-blood relatives, pimps and traffickers. The ramifications of domestic violence are not only devastating to the victims but also bear tremendous costs to society. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the lifetime economic cost associated with medical services for domestic violence-related injuries, lost productivity from paid work, criminal justice and other costs, is $3.6 trillion.

The correlation between victims of domestic violence and homelessness is noticeable— approximately 40% of Los Angeles County’s homeless population report having experienced domestic violence at some point in their lives. Many of our homeless neighbors experienced domestic violence as a result of living in unstable, unsafe homes as children. The unresolved trauma from child abuse and/or neglect not only correlates with their homelessness but also suggests that their history with domestic violence dates back much further than their current or most recent partner. Studies show that as many as 57% of all homeless women report domestic violence as the immediate cause of their homelessness. Survivors who are actively fleeing violence represent about 7% of the homeless population in Los Angeles County today. Victims fleeing their abusers may find safety in the domestic violence shelter system, but ultimately, they may find that there is no way to access housing and stay safe, often because they are unable to afford high rent rates on their own. Many survivors are left with an impossible choice: return home to their abuser or fall into homelessness.

The vulnerabilities of this population are especially unique and require a client-centered and survivor driven approach. For many survivors, the initial sense of safety is physical distance from their partners but that feeling quickly dissipates as they are faced with navigating a system that is often overwhelming and re-traumatizing. We all know that Los Angeles County has a severe shortage of housing options for people experiencing homelessness – especially for victims of domestic violence and their families. Survivors require tailored support and advocacy to help them navigate the system and identify resources and programs that fit their needs, not the other way around.

Understanding the need for resources tailored to those who have experienced domestic violence, The People Concern has specific services to help adults and children escape from unsafe homes and recover from their trauma. Sojourn, our domestic violence project for adults and children, has been a safe place for healing and recovery since it was founded in 1977 and is the second-oldest crisis shelter in the State. Sojourn’s services include a 24/7 hotline, emergency shelter and transitional housing, children’s programs, court advocacy and legal assistance, support groups, and domestic violence education. Sojourn’s Outreach program to youth conducts interactive, activist workshops on healthy relationships, nonviolent negotiation skills, and toxic masculinity.

Over time, Sojourn’s dedicated staff build trust with survivors and walk alongside them on their path to healing and stability. Sojourn’s impact is made possible through the support of our community. Visit sojourn.funraise.org to give the gift of hope this Domestic Violence Awareness Month. To learn more about how you can get involved as a volunteer or supporter please email: aatienzo@thepeopleconcern.org. Individuals and communities can also use their voice to advocate for more affordable and supportive housing in their neighborhood – housing paired with integrated services ends homelessness for survivors of domestic violence. Together, we can help break the cycle of domestic violence and homelessness.

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