Q&A: Why are more survivors seeking shelter at Doorways?

Q: I was just looking at Doorways’ recent press release and I was surprised by how many more survivors Doorways sheltered last year compared to previous years. I was wondering if you could provide any more context on these numbers. The press release notes that the community’s needs are increasing. In what ways are they increasing? What seems to be the cause of this trend in more survivors seeking shelter at Doorways?

A: Domestic violence has increased in both frequency and severity. As the only provider of emergency shelter for survivors in imminent danger – called safehousing – Doorways has been at the front lines responding to the growing need for safehousing (please see chart). We are responding to survivors’ needs by reinventing ourselves. With our community’s support, we are increasing, improving, and transforming the way we serve survivors, including expanding our safehousing capacity.

Doorways’ safehousing provides emergency shelter and services to survivors and their children who are in imminent danger or imminent risk, which means there is a threat and likelihood that serious harm or death could occur within a short time due to intimate partner violence. In 2022, according to the Danger Assessment, 80% of adults who came into Doorways’ safehousing program were at a high level of lethality risk.

We believe these to be among the top contributing factors:

  • Crisis: We know that intimate partner violence increases in times of crisis, from worldwide crises like climate change, to individual crises like job loss and eviction. The COVID-19 pandemic led to intensified domestic violence across the globe, including here in Arlington. Survivors were isolated at home with those who harmed them, unable to access supports like friends, family members, and healthcare. The stressors of the pandemic, including economic impacts, also escalated abuse. Once quarantines were lifted and survivors were able to seek services, the increase in need for Doorways’ safehousing grew rapidly.
  • Increased Cost of Living: Domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness, especially among women and children. As Arlington becomes increasingly unaffordable, more people are on the brink of crisis – which contributes to stress factors that escalate abusive behaviors – and when crisis occurs, they need somewhere safe to go. Survivors’ number one need is housing, and for families, childcare is also a necessity. Both housing and childcare are extremely expensive in Arlington, and survivors with children need both.
  • Increased Awareness: Through outreach and collaboration with our Project PEACE and community partners, Doorways promotes our hotline to make our services as accessible as possible to survivors in crisis. The more people know that help is available, the more likely survivors are to reach out and be connected to Doorways’ programs.

Doorways’ safehousing is accessible via our 24/7 hotline, 703-237-0881, which is also the only hotline in Arlington. Doorways’ 24-Hour Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline provides information, support, safety planning, and referrals to safehousing and services such as hospital accompaniments for forensic exams, Doorways’ Revive mental health counseling, and community-based advocacy. We encourage anyone who is experiencing intimate partner violence, or knows someone who is experiencing abuse, to call Doorways’ hotline for information and support. You are not alone.

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