By Adriene Atkinson, Safe Harbor Housing Assistance Program (HAP) Manager
Independent – defined as “free from outside control, not depending on another’s authority”…
Survivors of domestic violence often feel the effects of outside control and are frequently bound by their abuser’s authority. Moving out on your own often means stepping out on faith, treading into murky waters with no guarantee of stability. However, I’ve had the privilege to witness numerous survivors of domestic violence bravely dive into the pool of independence and self-sufficiency, despite their fears, when given an opportunity to obtain safe, affordable housing opportunities.
While some survivors of domestic violence may have past experience with running a household on their own or have personal credit/income that allows them to escape a domestic violence situation, oftentimes that is certainly not the case. Most of the survivors with whom I work are faced with numerous barriers that prevent them from escaping a volatile situation, including limited income, limited or poor credit history, troubled rental history that often includes domestic violence related incidents, no experience managing finances, and the list goes on.
In a fast-growing city like Greenville, where expensive high-rise condo buildings have become more plentiful than affordable housing units, independence and self-sufficiency can appear to be an unreachable goal for a survivor of domestic violence.
Safe Harbor’s Housing Assistance Program (HAP) offers survivors of domestic violence the “boost” needed to jump-start their journey to independence. By assisting our clients with a portion of their housing expenses for 12-15 months while also providing case management, advocacy and community resources needed to attain their goals along the way, HAP is a “game-changer” for survivors and their families.
“Shannon”, a survivor of a volatile marriage that resulted in her coming into Safe Harbor’s Greenville Shelter, had two young children and was pregnant with her third when she decided that sleeping in her car with her children was safer than remaining home with her abuser. With the collaboration of our community partner, Homes of Hope, Shannon was able to transition from our shelter to a safe, affordable home of her own. With assistance from Safe Harbor’s HAP program, Shannon receives assistance with both monthly rent and utility bills. In the meantime, Shannon has worked diligently to secure a job that gives her enough income to prepare for next steps once she exits HAP. Though her journey has not been easy, Shannon has remained focused, setting goals to transition from HAP with funds to place a deposit on her own home and establishing a savings account that will enable her to be prepared for unexpected expenses.
My career as a helping professional is the absolute air I breathe. While I have worked with numerous populations in the social services field, none have brought out my personal strengths and passion more than assisting and encouraging survivors to become independent and self-sufficient.
I learned early in my career that the world doesn’t always understand the barriers that survivors of domestic violence often face. Therefore, I had better do all I can to empower each client as they navigate a world that often lacks empathy and understanding for the trauma they have experienced.
My personal goal in this field is to teach, encourage, and coach survivors to take personal responsibility for their “happily ever after”, knowing that they have they have the courage, resilience and strength they need to start a new life.