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Domestic violence shelters full as housing costs rise in DFW

In late April, Stacey was faced with the choice to flee from abuse and violence, or stay home to avoid covid-19.
Keren Carrión
/
KERA News
Domestic violence shelters are turning people away due to longer stays at the shelter because of rising housing costs.

High rents take their toll, making affordable housing more and more scarce for domestic violence survivors in North Texas.

A new report from the Texas Council on Family Violence found more than 70% of survivors said they needed help finding housing. The report also found that between a quarter and a third of women experiencing homelessness were also survivors of domestic violence.

And shelters that serve domestic violence survivors — a crucial safety net — are running out of space as the need for housing increases.

Mary Beth Kopsovich, the director of intake and assessment at the Family Place, said the agency is having to turn people away. The organization has three emergency shelters that house about 165 people and 25 apartments for transitional housing.

“We receive a number of calls every day, and we only have so many bed spaces for the amount of people and the amount of calls that are needing shelter,” Kopsovich said.

Christina Coultas, CEO at Hope’s Door New Beginning, a family violence center in Collin County, said her agency’s two shelters are usually full. Combined, they house about 55 people.

Coultas said survivors of domestic violence used to stay at the shelter for about a month. Then, the agency would help the survivor find permanent housing. But the pandemic has made finding permanent housing more challenging. That means longer stays at the shelter, which leaves less space for others in need.

“It's like turning a table at a restaurant, right?” Coultas said. “If I can effectively help guide, support and safety plan to your next step after shelter, that creates a space at the shelter for the next person.”

Behind the crunch at domestic violence shelters is something people are facing everywhere in DFW: an increase in rental costs. The median rent price in Dallas for December 2022 is about $2,000 according to Zillow. That’s more than $200 higher than it was in 2021.

Tiffany McDaniel, chief of client services at The Family Place, said there’s a gap between what federal rental assistance considers a “fair market rate” and actual rent prices in Dallas.

“The fair market rate is significantly lower than the cost of housing in the Dallas community,” McDaniel said.

She said that the fair market rate set by the federal government for a one-bedroom apartment could be about half the actual market rent.

And a lack of permanent housing can lead to more abuse. McDaniel said some survivors end up returning to their abusers because they have nowhere else to go.

Coultas said her agency could build bigger or additional domestic violence shelters to create more space, but that would be putting a “band-aid” on larger, more systemic issues – issues exacerbated by the pandemic.

“We’re not going to solve poverty tomorrow night or the circumstances that put people in very vulnerable places,” Coultas said. “But there's nothing like a pandemic to … shine a light on all those vulnerabilities.”

Got a tip? Email Caroline Love at clove@kera.org.

Caroline Love is a Report For America corps member for KERA News.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

Caroline Love covers Collin County for KERA and is a member of the Report for America corps. Previously, Caroline covered daily news at Houston Public Media. She has a master's degree from Northwestern University with an emphasis on investigative social justice journalism. During grad school, she reported three feature stories for KERA. She also has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Texas Christian University and interned with KERA's Think in 2019.