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The organizations of Lowell City that worked on the Continuum of Care Application in 2006 summarized that “nearly half of the homeless people in Lowell are children and women, 29% of whom are the victims of domestic violence”. Furthermore, the problem of homelessness exists on the sociocultural, relational and individual levels, when domestic violence is a primary reason of homelessness due to the specifications of the victim’s psychological realities, lack of protection due to the criminal and civil justice’s limitations, and inadequacy of the safety planning for the victims afterwards the court proceedings.
Apart of stigmatization and illnesses that homeless people face, the number of assaults against homeless has risen dramatically and counts of 73 assaults nationwide, 13 victims of these assaults died for the given period. Considering that the percentage of the poor citizens in Lowell are 5, 5% greater than that of Massachusetts as whole, and homelessness rates of the domestic violence victims almost reached the number of chronically homeless subpopulations, domestic violence and poverty should be considered interconnected contributing factors of homelessness. Therefore, the paper will focus on the mitigation of the problems, which relate to the domestic-related assaults, and cause epidemiological increasing of the homelessness rates.
Causes of Homelessness in Women and Children
Individual level casual factors
- The person’s preference of staying socially isolated, rather than being dysfunctional under incent, violence or constant criticism;
- Loss of the significance of the notion of home, which is perceived as a physical structure, rather than emotional well-being, stability or sociable identity;
- Poor recreation of the role models due to the lowered self-esteem, self-image or self-confidence;
- The person’s demoralization due to the lack of ordinary social life, interference of searching for a job, and decreased ability to improve lowered economic status.
Microsystem level casual factors
- Domestic violence or interpersonal family violence which forces the victims of such abuse to flee, in order to prevent repetition of the same behavior;
- Death of the care takers, which negatively intrudes into the personal lives of these, who do not have enough credit to support the family;
- Rupture of relationships or other partner’s abandonment, which provokes problematic rental or employment histories;
- Mental illness of people, who are hospitalized or housed to a jail due to the scornful public attitudes.
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Organizational level casual factors
- The core services of the community programs are aimed on providing monetary assistance for families, rather than individuals to help them remain in their houses without a need of going to the shelters;
- Particular individuals struggle to withdraw interference with the requirements of the specific Department of Transitional Assistance, and frequently are not categorized as those, who need financial assistance;
- The shelters for young homeless people, ages 16-20, are provided by sole teen inequality program, which provides housing for eighteen children, and has a waiting list for the rest of the parentless teens. For that reason, children from the waiting list cannot stay in the Lowell Transitional Living Center, if they have attained 18;
- The rehabbed building on Middlesex street provides twelve permanent apartments for 90-120 chronically homeless men and women under subsidization of Section 8 Assistance Vouchers, which does not consider the low-income groups who change lodgings from one friend’s house to other friend’s house as homeless.
Locality level casual factors
- Drawing in of wealthy young professionals to the city whose capabilities and possibilities decrease the affordable housing options;
- The shortage of sufficient full-time and part-time employment, which enables to cover the price for rent that exceeds 63% of the income;
- Insufficient education training and job training of the homeless children and women due to stigmatization;
- Unavailability of the community mental health services for those, who do not reach housing shelters.
Macrosystem level casual factors
- Restructuring of the directions of the Section 8, which presupposes restrictions for 65,000 low-income households of federal rental assistance (Muckenstrum, 2006);
- Shifted balance from the public to the private sector, when council housing provision does not assess housing needs of homeless women and children;
- Discrimination against women on the labor-market, which averts decent remuneration of labor, and impedes benefits of full-time employment for women;
- The government policies’ disregard to the economic position of women, who perform a role of caregiver in society;
- The amendments of social welfare policies in favor of deserved welfare recipients due to the changing demographics.
Of all of the casual factors of homelessness among women and children, domestic violence casual factor of the microsystem level can be chosen for further assessment and analysis of possible changes. Other factors of the microsystem level were not considered in the assessment due to their inevitable ontogenetic nature, and their incoherence with the locality and macrosystem levels that presuppose the course action of the homelessness issue. The rationale behind choosing domestic violence as a casual factor was based on the statement of the Lowell Police Department that recorded a total of 3,146 of domestic-related incidents in 2011.
The current situation of this casual factor states that the third of the domestic violence victims of these incidents ends up homeless due to social, relational and individual realities. The ideal situation requires legal system’s consideration of the specifications of the safety requirements, financial and legal assistance and protection of the victims that will help to eliminate interpersonal violence, and reduce the number of the homeless victims of such abuse. For that reason driving and restraining forces of this casual factor should be outlined to specify their interconnection with the causes of the chosen social problem.
Individual level driving forces
- The victim’s self-worth affirmation and desire to break social isolation;
- The victim’s overcoming of the psychological barriers that provoke the person to remain involved with the abusive partner.
Microsystem level driving force
- The need of the society’s acknowledgment of the abusive behavior and potentially dangerous consequences of the victim’s misfortune;
- The elimination of the societal isolation thorough the engagement of the community’s support.
Organizational level driving forces
- Social workers and housing developers should complete adequate training to anticipate the risks of repetitive abuses, prevent the cases of assaults and offer meaningful countermeasures when violence took place;
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- Charging of the police officers with responsibility for the victim’s protective countermeasures and housing accommodation, and mitigation of the problems related with the abuser’s placement on probation and elimination of the possibility of violation of the court order within the case, which has been disposed of in the court.
Locality level driving forces
- Creation of projects, which are aimed for investors’ engagement for the provision of the affordable housing options;
- Mitigation of the employment problems through the relieving of the poverty-related stress, considering regional approach of the job creation in the surrounding communities.
Macrosystem level driving forces
- Facilitation of the judicial limitations that consider interests of the domestic violence victims, and respond to the necessary safety requirements;
- Provision of the necessary financial and other forms of assistance for the victims before, during, and after prosecution.
Individual level restraining forces
- Patriarchal dominance and obsession of maintaining power and control over an intimate partner or family member;
- The person’s history of victimization and perpetration of being abused or witnessing abuse;
Microsystem level restraining forces
- The victim’s limitations in financial viability from the abuser;
- Domestic violence is conceptualized as a struggle between a man and a woman and is housed within a society as a necessary use of force by men against women;
- Poverty-related stress, overcrowding and frequent disagreements create violence at all family levels.
Organizational level restraining forces
- The social workers do not communicate sufficiently safety requirements that should be considered in the cases of post-separation violence;
- Police officers do not follow the procedure of the violence case, and do not provide required protection and assistance after the case is disposed of in court.
Locality level restraining forces
- Shortage of the decent employment forces victims of domestic assaults to stop following the proceedings of the court hearings ;
- Unaffordable housing option and lack of financial assistance for abused women and children alert their involvement with police and court systems.
Macrosystem level restraining forces
- Domestic violence is seen as a misdemeanor according to the directions of the law enforcement;
- 209A protective order does not guarantee the necessary safety requirements for the victims of domestic violence;
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- The victim’s legal oppression to domestic violence can conflict with the interest of the criminal justice system.
The interconnection between the causes of abusive behavior and outcome-based solutions of the driving forces of domestic-related incidents justify that poverty-associated stressors, economic instability and unaffordability of the housing prices and options are the main causes of the occurrence of such assaults. Furthermore, the legal system’s prosecution and sanctioning interests provoke post-separation violence, due to their confrontation with the victim’s rights. For that reason, improvements of the conditions of the safety requirements, financial issues and judicial limitations of the protective order should be focused on the driving forces of locality level and macrosystem level which drive movement toward the elimination of homelessness.
The judicial limitations are based on the sections of the 209A protective order, which predetermine law enforcement for the abusers and tolerate the sentence suspension together with eligibility of probation and parole (Lowell Police Department, 2011). Considering that the judge’s decision is heavily based on the record keeping systems of the domestic assaults maintained by the responsible officer or commissioner, the police officers should take sufficient countermeasures to provide the necessary safety requirements for the victims of domestic violence cases. For that purpose, the respective officers should keep updated information regarding the temporary shelters in the area in question, properly record and address the victim’s calls afterwards the case’s disposal, and sufficiently mitigate the problems related with the abuser’s violation of the respective protective order. Furthermore, the officer’s assistance can be aimed at the proficient communication of the legal system’s restrictions, concerning the amount of time, which is given for protection, and possibility of the post-separation violence that the victim may experience.
Considering the shortage of the employment options and unavailability of the affordable housing perspectives, the Chapter 40B of the Affordable Housing Law can shift focus from reliance on the federal government’s financing to engage investments from the Financial Housings into the development programs. This approach will help to integrate the outcome-based solutions for the programs, which concern the issues of domestic violence but do not embrace the problems of homelessness. In this respect, benefits from such preventive measures will be gradual and will not require excessive funding for their implementation.
On the other hand, the policies focused on the transitional housing services, and provision of welfare and protection for the victims of domestic violence should be considered in the light of the necessity of arrangement of the regional employment options. Furthermore, the appropriate response to the financial needs for those, who have previous cognitive experience of the domestic-related assaults and are not able to seek and maintain full-time employment, should be focused on the appropriateness of the programs that train and employ ready-to-work people. Considering demographic situation in the City’s employment perspectives, creation of the necessary job positions can be provided on the regional basis, given the knowledge of the City’s infrastructure.
In addition, elimination of the abovementioned restraining forces will help to mitigate the problems that exist on the individual and microsystem levels. Additionally, accessibility and sufficiency of the criminal and civil justice tools that mitigate domestic-and homeless-related problems will help overcome the burden of the inappropriate definitions of the notions of domestic violence and homelessness, and properly categorize those low-income groups that need legal, social and financial support. For that reason, people-oriented focus in the responsibility of the community safety will prevent the occurrence of the repetitive violence-related cases, and reduce the number of the homeless victims of the domestic assaults.
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