Transitional housing is helpful

........................................................................................................................................................................................

Home is a refuge, a place to feel secure. For victims of domestic violence, finding a safe home can seem like a mirage, but the Valencia Shelter Services’ Transitional Housing program makes home sweet home a real deal.

Whether it is a woman with resources or very few, undocumented or not, with a college degree or who is a high school drop-out, the housing program helps any woman with her children in the shelter.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: Juliet Sanchez, the housing coordinator at Valencia Shelter Services, helps women and children secure safe and permanent housing.

Since 1998, the Valencia Shelter Services’ Transitional Housing Program has been helping victims of domestic violence transition into their own homes. Funded by HUD and matching funds from private donations, the shelter subsidizes rent for women in their housing program.

During last year’s funding renewal process, the shelter’s transitional housing program was ranked highest performing in the state by the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness.

Victims of domestic violence who go to the shelter for help, can live in the shelter for up to 90 days. From there, they can get into the Transitional Housing Program and receive rent assistance for up to two years.

There are many success stories of women who have gone through the shelter’s doors. With support services, they are able to rebuild their lives with their children, earn college degrees, land good jobs and buy homes. Some are business owners in Valencia County.

One mother of two, who didn’t want to be identified, works as a housekeeper and had nowhere to go after she left her abusive husband.

The shelter provided her and her two sons a safe place to live and the services to help her pull her life together again. She got into the transitional housing program, and now, after 11 months, she is applying for affordable financing with the USDA Rural Development Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program, and will soon purchase her first house.

“It’s my dream to own my own home,” she said. “I’m very excited.”

She is also working toward a supervisory position with her employer. Actually, it’s her boss who is encouraging her to go for the supervisor position, said Juliet Sanchez, VSS’s housing coordinator.

“Her self esteem is really up,” said Sanchez. “She’s done amazing. Her and her kids have come a long way.”

The whole point of the program is to empower women to be self sufficient and have greater self determination to make choices for themselves and their family, said Alexandria Taylor, executive director at VSS.

The program requires participants either to be working, working toward economic independence by increasing their skills, enrolling in a vocational school or college, volunteering in something that will help them improve their skills or anything that will help them improve their income, Taylor said.

When women and their children are in the shelter, they are wrapped in services of support, including counseling, life skills, financial literacy and practical budgeting, vocational services, a children’s program, teen parenting and others.

Domestic violence is a generational problem, so to assume people have family support is not realistic, Taylor said.

Support services at the shelter work to change the cycle for the next generation, and eligibility for the Transitional Housing Program is through the shelter.

“We’re funded to provide housing for five families, but we often push that up to seven or eight, depending on the need at any given time,” Taylor said. “Low-income housing is such a problem here, that sometimes we have families that need housing so we push that up.”

The women get to choose where they want to live, what school district they want their children in, what type of dwelling, house or apartment, and what is accessible to their place of employment for them.

“The hope is whenever they choose to leave the program, that they could, essentially, stay in the house they are currently in and just take over the rent themselves,” said Taylor.

The shelter and the housing program are necessary to get families to safety and give them an option, but it is only a temporary solution. Until there is safe, affordable housing for people to start rebuilding their lives, they are going to be forced to be homeless or go back to where they came from.

Safe affordable housing has got to be No. 1 for a permanent solution, Taylor said.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.