Sheltering Services During COVID-19
For over 40 years, the Domestic Violence Intervention Program (DVIP) has been removing barriers for victims/survivors of intimate partner violence, stalking and human trafficking. DVIP provides comprehensive services such as emergency services, housing assistance, safety planning, community-wide education, one on one counseling, and necessities such as food and clothing.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused additional barriers to safety for victims/survivors and their families. With the need for social distancing, loss of jobs, constant changes in education and childcare and all around isolation we are seeing more calls for help than ever before. This year our hotline calls have increased by 28% and we have provided 76% more in emergency sheltering expenses to families who need help and have nowhere else to go.
In March, DVIP staff and the Board of Directors took the Center for Disease Control guidelines of social distancing very seriously and acted fast to make necessary changes for the safety of those in our communal living, emergency shelter. In April, we moved 36 adults and children to apartments and hotels to provide safe social distancing. This required additional funding and support from community members to furnish the apartment spaces. We had the support of over 60 donors who gave furniture, household supplies, food, etc to make this possible.
By June, we were able to move victims/survivors back into our shelter but only at half capacity, approximately 15-20 people per night, rather than our full census of 35-40. DVIP staff came up with creative ways to separate spaces in the communal areas of our shelter by building makeshift walls and by placing one person in each room to provide as much social distancing as possible. DVIP also hired an additional staff member to clean and sanitize full-time.
In November, DVIP was awarded a grant for $60,000 to rent five apartments that act as our shelter with 24/7 advocate availability. This space has allowed us to reach our normal census of 40 households in our emergency shelters. The apartments are being utilized for families and we are able to provide the necessities, as well as other resources to help the families create a safe space to heal.
DVIP continues to work to provide safety options outside of the emergency shelter. Our two person housing department in Johnson County serves our Northern tier of counties including Washington, Iowa and Cedar Counties. They have been working around the clock to find permanent housing for individuals and families. When funds are available, DVIP can provide deposit and rent to families, as well as covering the application fees or setup fees for utilities, which was made possible by donations from community members. Over the years, we have built a network of support for sheltering services in Johnson County. We work together with The Shelter House and CommUnity to fill in the gaps in funding and to provide additional resources such as help to acquire new birth certificates, driver’s licenses and other documents needed to secure housing.
DVIP provides sheltering services in all of our counties. We have two additional emergency shelter/transitional housing locations in Burlington and Keokuk. In addition, we are the Coordinated Entry lead for housing services in Henry, Des Moines, Louisa and Lee Counties. Our team consists of a housing specialist for Lee County, Des Moines County and a SE Iowa Housing and Homelessness Coordinator who serves the entire area. We work with area homeless shelters, food banks and mental health service partners to ensure individuals at risk of homelessness, or are homeless, have access to rental assistance and support services.
After 40 years of working with victims-survivors, DVIP knows that intimate partner violence will not slow down during this pandemic, and it will continue to increase the need for our services. We continue to seek emergency funding for sheltering services from grants, foundations and individual donors.
COVID-19 effects on Renters:
Nearly one in five renters – disproportionately Black and Latino renters – are behind on their rents. Experts estimate that these households already owe between $34 billion to $70 billion in back rent. Without continued federal intervention, up to 30 million to 40 million renters could lose their homes. In addition to the tremendous harm to families and communities, this wave of evictions could conservatively cost the federal government up to $129 billion in shelter, service and other associated costs.
You can find more details regarding the eviction moratorium that is currently in place here: https://nlihc.org/coronavirus-and-housing-homelessness/national-eviction-moratorium