Some Cities Are Offering Hotel Rooms To Help Domestic Violence Victims

by Julie Scagell

Shelters are at capacity and hotel rooms are offering more space for domestic violence victims

As the pandemic continues and shelter-in-place guidelines continue, many victims of domestic violence are finding it harder and harder to find a safe haven to go. Police departments across the country have reported a surge in calls from domestic violence victims during lock-down, and with nowhere to go, some cities are working with local shelters to provide empty hotel rooms for them.

The Safe Alliance domestic violence shelter in Charlotte, North Carolina, for example, has been filled to capacity, HuffPost reported. The shelter can take up to 120 people, but with an increasing number of people seeking shelter coupled with fear of the virus spreading in close quarters, they knew a new approach was needed to continue servicing victims.

“We knew that with 120 people in one building, if one person gets sick, we’d be in bad shape,” said Safe Alliance president and CEO Karen Parker. To address this, Mecklenburg County in North Carolina has opened up hotel rooms to victims.

Public Health Director Gibbie Harris incorporated Safe Alliance into her annual budget plan to move residents from homeless shelters into hotel rooms. Harris leased three hotels and moved more than 200 homeless people into the rooms, including 42 Safe Alliance survivors.

Charlotte is just one of hundreds of cities seeing a similar spike in numbers.

“Our revenues are drying up very fast, but we have taken a commitment to keep our doors open,” said Alejandra Castillo, the CEO of YWCA USA, which operates 76 emergency domestic violence shelters nationwide. Castillo added that YWCA USA saw a 70 percent increase in demand for emergency housing. And according to the Texas Safe Haven, calls coming in were also more severe. Within four days, three people who called the hotline had been shot, and two had been stabbed.

Family Promise in Laramie, Wyoming, and Survive 2 Thrive in Austin, Texas are also working with local resources to provide hotel rooms or expanded plans for existing shelters, as is the Illinois Department of Human Services. At least two counties in California have also turned to hotel rooms, relying on donations from Rihanna’s charitable foundation.

“This crisis is showing the fault lines in our social safety net services in general,” said Deborah Vagins, the president and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. “The services who provide help for survivors are woefully underfunded and under-resourced.”

“We anticipated (an increase in domestic violence) with the shelter-at-home order that was put out. And you compound the problem with the added stress of kids having to stay home from school all the time and of course not knowing the uncertainties,” Hidalgo County Sheriff J.E. Guerra told The Monitor last month. “A lot of people are out of work. A lot of financial strain has been put on the families.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).