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Domestic Violence and Homelessness: Statistics (2016)

Published: June 24, 2016

The Need for Safe Housing

In just one day in 2015, over 31,500 adults and children fleeing domestic violence found refuge in a domestic violence emergency shelter or transitional housing program.

  • That same day, domestic violence programs were unable to meet over 12,197 requests for services because of a lack of funding, staffing, or other resources.
  • Sixty-three percent (7,728) of unmet requests were for housing. Emergency shelter and transitional housing continue to be the most urgent unmet needs for domestic violence survivors.

Source: National Network to End Domestic Violence. (2016). Domestic Violence Counts 2015-A 24-hour census of domestic violence shelters and services. Washington, DC.

In 2014, FVPSA grantees reported 196,467 unmet requests for shelter—a 13% increase over those reported in 2010. This represents a count of the number of unmet requests for shelter due to programs being at capacity.

Source: Family Violence Prevention & Services Program, Family & Youth Services Bureau. (2015). Domestic Violence Services Provided by State and Tribal Grantees. Washington, DC.

The need for safe housing and the economic resources to maintain safe housing are two of the most pressing concerns among abused women who are planning to or have recently left abusers.

Source: Clough, A., Draughon, J. E., Njie-Carr, V., Rollins, C., & Glass, N. (2014).

Having housing made everything else possible”: Affordable, safe and stable housing for women survivors of violence. Qualitative Social Work, 13(5), 671-688.

A study of 3,400 shelter residents in domestic violence programs across eight states found that housing is one of the main needs identified by survivors at the time of shelter entry; 84% participants reported that they needed help with finding affordable housing.

Source: Lyon, E., Lane, S., & Menard, A. (2008). Meeting Survivors’ needs: A multi-state study of domestic violence shelter experiences. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice.

Survivors have reported that if a domestic violence shelter did not exist, the consequences for them would be dire: homelessness, serious losses including loss of their children, actions taken in desperation, or continued abuse or death.

Source: Lyon, E., Lane, S., & Menard, A. (2008). Meeting survivors’ needs: A multi-state study of domestic violence shelter experiences. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice.

Domestic Violence and Homelessness

According to multiple studies examining the causes of homelessness, among mothers with children experiencing homelessness, more than 80% had previously experienced domestic violence.

Source: Aratani, Y. (2009). Homeless Children and Youth, Causes and Consequences. New York, NY: National Center for Children in Poverty.

Between 22 and 57% of all homeless women report that domestic violence was the immediate cause of their homelessness.

Sources: Wilder Research Center (2004). Homeless in Minnesota, 2003, 22; Center for Impact Research (2004). Pathways to and from Homelessness: Women and Children in Chicago Shelters, 3; Nat’l Center for Homelessness & Health Care for the Homeless Clinicians’ Network (2003). Social Supports for Homeless Mothers, 14, 26; Inst. for Children & Poverty (2004). The Hidden Migration: Why New York City Shelters are Overflowing with Families; Homes for the Homeless and Inst. for Children & Poverty (1998). Ten Cities 1997-1998: A Snapshot of Family Homelessness Across America, 3.

Thirty-eight percent of all domestic violence victims become homeless at some point in their lives.

Source: Baker, C., Cook, S., & Norris, F. (2003). Domestic Violence and Housing Problems: A Contextual Analysis of Women’s Help-Seeking, Received Informal Support, and Formal System Response. Violence Against Women 9(7), 754-783.

According to a 2012 study on homelessness in Minnesota, 30% of women were homeless due to domestic violence.

Source: Gerrard, M., Shelton, E., Pittman, B., & Owen, G. (2012). 2012 Minnesota Homeless Study: Fact Sheet. St. Paul, MN: Wilder Research.

In the HUD 2012 Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance Program Point-in-Time Count, the largest subpopulation of homeless persons in Washington State was victims of domestic violence.

Source: Olsen, L., Rollins, C., Billhardt, K. & (2013). The Intersection of Domestic Violence and Homelessness. Seattle, Washington: Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Portland, OR: Volunteers of America Home Free Program.

A Florida study examining the experience of violence among 800 homeless women found that a significant number of women were victimized in their lifetime, and almost one-quarter of the women indicated that violence was one, if not the main reason they were homeless. This study also found that:

  • Approximately one homeless woman in four is homeless mainly because of her experiences with violence.
  • Homeless women are far more likely to experience violence of all sorts than American women in general, by differentials ranging from two to four depending on the specific type of violence in question.

Source: Jasinski, J. L., Wesely, J. K., Mustaine, E., & Wright, J. D. (2005, November). The Experience of Violence in the Lives of Homeless Women: A Research Report. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice.

In a 2012 survey of 25 cities, 28% of Mayors cited domestic violence as a leading cause of homelessness among families with children.

Source: The United States Conference of Mayors. (2012). A Status Report on Hunger and Homelessness in America’s Cities: A 25-City Survey. Washington, DC.

In a cross-sectional study that examined the relationship between recent interpersonal violence and housing instability among a representative sample of California women, women who experienced interpersonal violence in the last year had almost four times the odds of reporting housing instability than women who did not experience interpersonal violence.

Source: Pavao, J., Alvarez, J., Baumrind, N., Induni, M., & Kimerling, R. (2007). Intimate Partner Violence and Housing Instability. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 32(2), 143-146.

Women and men who experienced food and housing insecurity in the past 12 months reported a significantly higher 12-month prevalence of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner compared to women and men who did not experience food and housing insecurity.

Source: Breiding, M. J., Chen, J., & Black, M. C. (2014). Intimate partner violence in the United States – 2010. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Domestic Violence, Homelessness, and Children

One of the major causes of homelessness for children in the U.S. includes experiences of trauma, especially domestic violence, by their mothers and/or by the children themselves; trauma frequently precedes and prolongs homelessness for children and families.

Source: The National Center on Family Homelessness at American Institutes for Research. (2013). America’s Youngest Outcasts Fact Sheet. Washington, DC.

A recent study of homeless families in three types of housing programs found that 93% of mothers experienced at least one trauma and 81% experienced multiple traumatic events. Seventy-nine percent experienced trauma in childhood, 82% in adulthood, and 91% in both adulthood and childhood. Violent victimization was the most common traumatic experience; 70% reported being physically assaulted by a family member or someone they knew and approximately half had been sexually assaulted.

Source: Hayes, M., Zonneville, M., & Bassuk, E. (2013). The SHIFT Study final report: Service and housing interventions for families in transition. Newton, MA: National Center on Family Homelessness.

Last Reviewed: June 24, 2016

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