As we mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, it is important to consider whether women experiencing violence have supports available to help them to leave dangerous situations.
For women experiencing violence, financial dependence on their abusive partner is often a reality. This means that accessing funds to establish a new, safe home can be a huge barrier to escaping violence. One source of support is a YWCA Toronto program that provides interest-free loans of up to $750 to women escaping violence. The loan helps women to set up a new home by providing a small amount of money toward first and last months’ rent, changing locks, and buying furniture. This is a positive program, but establishing a new home costs a lot of money and a small loan may not be enough to help women to escape abuse.
That’s why programs that provide adequate financial support are so important.
In Ontario, the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB) used to provide modest support for people receiving social assistance – including women escaping violence – to cover large and unexpected housing-related costs. However, the province eliminated CSUMB early this year and transferred responsibility and some of the funding to municipalities. At the time, we warned that the elimination of CSUMB could negatively affect the health and well-being of women and children who were fleeing domestic violence, who would not be able to afford to establish a new home without this support.
Since the loss of CSUMB, municipalities across the province have developed a range of programs to address the urgent housing needs of people in their communities, aided by $42 million in in transitional funding from the province. However, a new crisis is developing as this funding is set to expire in March 2014. Municipalities cannot afford to lose this essential funding.
The Wellesley Institute has joined with 27 organizations across the province calling for the $42 million in transitional funding to be made permanent. The need to do so is urgent as municipalities are setting their 2014 budgets now.
Providing housing supports won’t end violence against women, but giving women options and opportunities to escape violence is the very least we can do.