Each day, hundreds of domestic violence survivors and their children receive shelter and housing services from providers statewide1. While the array of supportive services offered ranges from counseling and safety planning to emergency sheltering and housing, all providers agree: more resources are needed to meet the growing demand.
In March 2020, the City & County of Honolulu, in partnership with the Domestic Violence Action Center, opened a permanent housing project for survivors of domestic violence at Hale Maluhia. Using funds from the State’s Ohana Zone pilot program, Hale Maluhia offers permanent housing with on-site supportive services for twenty survivors and their children.
“Housing is the number-one problem for survivors who are trying to leave their abuser,” says Lydia Pavon, a fifteen-year advocate with the Domestic Violence Action Center and the current manager of Hale Maluhia. Without safe housing alternatives, victims are often left with few options. “If they have nowhere to go,” Lydia says, “they may feel like they have to return to their abuser.”
The facility, which began welcoming residents at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, could not have opened at a better time. Moving new residents into their own apartments was a critical component of implementing appropriate social distancing in existing domestic violence shelters, although the impacts of the new project will extend far beyond the pandemic.
For survivors who are involved in legal custody disputes, having a permanent place to live can have life-changing implications for themselves and their children.
Sarah, who is court-ordered to share custody of her young daughter with her abuser, explains it plainly: “Sometimes the abuser gets custody just because they have stable housing and you don’t.”
During her stay at a domestic violence emergency shelter, Sarah relentlessly pursued every potential housing option available. “I applied for everything,” she recalls. “You can’t just get comfortable once you get into a shelter because there’s a time limit.” In most cases, survivors may stay up to 90 days at a domestic violence shelter, with the possibility of an extension if needed.
Finding safe, affordable housing is a challenge for many working families in Hawaii, where the average rent for a two-bedroom unit can exceed $2,000. Even when housing is identified, many survivors struggle to meet the necessary rental qualifications.
“Many survivors have never had their own lease agreement before moving into Hale Maluhia,” says Marci Lopes, Deputy Director of the Domestic Violence Action Center.
Housing Solutions, Inc., which manages Hale Maluhia, takes extra steps to provide flexibility to applicants whenever possible. The property management company has been able to offer leases to applicants who would otherwise fail to qualify for housing at most other locations.
For the twenty survivors and their children who are rebuilding their lives at Hale Maluhia, the combination of permanent housing and on-site wraparound services fosters a sense of community and healing that would be impossible to replicate in scattered-site locations.
“It’s a blessing,” another resident said. “We’re in good hands now.”
If you or someone you know is in need of domestic violence support, contact the Domestic Violence Action Center’s helpline at 531-3771 or 1-800-690-6200 (toll-free), or text (605) 956-5680. In an emergency, call 911. Emergency services are also available through the State’s Text to 9-1-1 system by sending an SMS text message to 911 from any U.S. mobile phone.
Source: NNEDV 14th Annual Domestic Violence Counts Report: Hawaii Summary)