WILKES-BARRE — U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Wednesday joined his colleagues to combat unfair nuisance ordinances that affect victims and survivors of domestic violence.
In an emailed release, Casey, D-Scranton, said current laws can remove victims of domestic violence from homes for “nuisance.” He and several other senators have called on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to not force victims to choose between safety and shelter.
Casey said the senate members support HUD Secretary Julian Castro’s ongoing efforts to address the issue that ousted a Montgomery County woman from her rental apartment after multiple complaints of nuisance violations caused by her allegedly abusive boyfriend. Casey has joined with his fellow senators to support HUD’s efforts to protect people like Lakisha Briggs and her 3-year-old from the plight of eviction.
Casey and the other senators sent a letter to Castro that clearly states their position on the issue, supporting HUD’s efforts “to combat unfair and discriminatory nuisance ordinances that disproportionately affect” survivors of domestic violence.
The letter notes “a troubling rise in local nuisance laws” that impede access to housing and place vulnerable individuals in danger.
“No one should be forced to choose between safety from an abuser and shelter for themselves and their families,” the letter states. “Unfortunately, all too often, women across the nation are forced to make that decision. As such, we urge you to do everything in your power to prevent further evictions of domestic violence victims and to ensure all Americans have critical access to emergency services without fear of retaliation.”
The senators have asked that HUD provide written guidance on how nuisance ordinances may raise fair housing issues and harm vulnerable populations. Such guidance, they say, will help ensure communities do not force crime victims and those in need of emergency services to choose between safety and eviction.
“Moreover, nuisance ordinances have a disproportionate impact on victims of domestic violence by exacerbating housing insecurities that may be unique to survivors and further increasing victims’ likelihood of becoming homeless,” the letter states.
The letter further states:
• Survivors of domestic violence face unique challenges in securing and maintaining adequate housing.
• According to the Department of Justice, one-in-four homeless women in the U.S. is a survivor of domestic violence.
• Once a woman becomes homeless, she becomes more vulnerable to violence and exploitation — 9-in-10 homeless women have experienced severe physical or sexual abuse.
• Nuisance ordinances exacerbate the link between homelessness and domestic violence by designating calls for police assistance or criminal activity as nuisances, even where the tenant is the victim.
• Research has found calls regarding domestic violence generally make up the largest category of emergency assistance calls.
• Nuisance violations are frequently triggered by domestic violence incidents.
“Specifically, we request that HUD provide written guidance on how nuisance ordinances may raise fair housing issues and violate the FHA and VAWA and incorporate assessment of these laws into its efforts affirmatively furthering fair housing work with HUD grantees,” the senators wrote.
“While the link between homelessness and domestic violence is undeniable, it is not unbreakable,” they added.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.