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Understanding the Complex Connections Between Domestic & Sexual Violence and Homelessness

Half of all homeless women and children become homeless while trying to escape abusive situations. The inverse is also true, homeless individuals experience high levels of abuse before, during and after episodes of homelessness and often are victimized by multiple perpetrators in their lifetimes.

The intersection of homelessness, domestic violence and sexual assault is complex. Each is a traumatic event in an individual’s life. Often, one trauma creates vulnerabilities to another trauma. Poverty and its most extreme form—homelessness—are oppressive, and increase the risk for assaults and repeated victimization. Expanding the definition of homelessness can increase our perception of who is homeless, and to whom sexual and domestic violence programs can offer services. Other aspects of homelessness can be harder to identify and understand, such as hidden and chronic homelessness.

MCADSV Public Policy Director, Jennifer Carter Dochler, was recently appointed Chair of the Governor’s Committee to End Homelessness (GCEH). Jennifer has served on the Committee since 2003. The mission of GCEH is to lead Missouri’s efforts to prevent and end homelessness. A diverse group of stakeholders advance the Committee’s mission, including representation from various Continua of Care, the Veteran’s Administration, Missouri Housing Development Commission and Missouri Department of Mental Health.

Missouri Health Talks, a collaborative project of KBIA, is devoted to bringing attention to the state of health access across Missouri. A recent series of talks explored the prevalence of homelessness in central Missouri. Jennifer Carter Dochler speaks to the complexity of the connections between homelessness, and domestic and sexual violence. An important take away – homelessness is not an urban or rural issue – it is a Missouri issue. In order to fully prevent and end homelessness, coordinated efforts need to be strengthened on the local level. 

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