Thanks to Casey Reints and our friends at Friends of the Family for their commitment to fighting the cycle of violence and homelessness in Iowa, and for sharing their story:
1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, and studies show that access to safe shelter significantly decreases the likelihood that a victim or survivor would be found and harmed by their abuser. One of the largest barriers to safety, as reported by survivors themselves, is access to affordable housing. To address these barriers, Cedar Valley Friends of the Family offers a variety of safety options and rapid rehousing/homeless prevention services to quickly and effectively aid victims and survivors in obtaining and maintaining safe and affordable housing in their community.
Funding from the Iowa Women’s Foundation has helped the agency provide direct client assistance for individuals and families fleeing violence. Direct client assistance can be providing things such as work uniforms, transportation assistance, incentives for attending financial literacy courses, and medical costs/medications—among other things—but the majority of the agency’s direct client assistance is for rental/utility assistance.
This year, the agency recalls serving a woman and her teenage daughter (we’ll call them Rita and Kaylee) who were victims of domestic violence and located in a rural part of the service area. Upon seeking services, they were in their current home and were safe because the abusive partner had been arrested and was in jail. They called the crisis hotline for help paying the bills, as the abusive partner brought in most of their family’s income. Because they were so isolated and lived in such a small community, there were few resources available to help. This is where the Iowa Women’s Foundation comes in to play.
With a little financial assistance from Cedar Valley Friends of the Family, funded by a grant from the Iowa Women’s Foundation, Rita was able to secure a new place to live—one her abuser couldn’t recognize when he got released from jail. She then returned to work as a respiratory therapist after taking a few years off. While in the rapid rehousing program, she was able to learn budgeting skills, responsible rent skills, and follow through with her self-sufficiency plan that was developed in one of the first meetings.
Cedar Valley Friends of the Family, while providing rental assistance, also provided case management and support in accessing other services. The agency helped Rita communicate with her landlord so that everyone was on the same page, and he was aware of her safety concerns. According to the follow-up with Rita, she and Kaylee are doing well and are still housed in the same place.
Cedar Valley Friends of the Family’s Outreach Services Manager Carrie Diesburg, who oversees the rapid rehousing program, shares, “Without the support of the Iowa Women’s Foundation, many rural victims of violent crime would have few options to reach safety and stability. Women and girls just like Rita and Kaylee would be left to decide whether to turn to their abuser for financial support, to seek a homeless shelter, or to seek another unsafe or unlivable situation.”
More about Friends of the Family:
Cedar Valley Friends of the Family provides safe shelter, case management, and housing assistance to individuals and families fleeing domestic and sexual violence. The program operates around-the-clock, across 14 counties in Northeast and Eastern Iowa. To learn more, or to get involved, please visit http://cvfriendsofthefamily.org/.