San Francisco secures housing for domestic violence survivors amid uptick in reports

With families on lockdown across the country due to restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 there's been an increase in domestic violence cases. 

According to the New York Times, abuse hotlines have been flooded with reports and now local governments are trying to address the crisis going in some households. 

During the first week after the shelter-in-place order, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office saw a 60% spike in clients referred to the Victim Services Division compared to the same week in 2019. In the second week, the office saw a 33% decrease in new client referrals. 

To free some people from the abuse, the City of San Francisco has secured 20 furnished apartments for survivors of domestic violence and is working to find additional units. 

The temporary homes were donated by Veritas, a San Francisco-based real estate management company, as the result of a collaboration with Mayor London Breed, District Attorney Chesa Boudin, the Human Services Agency, and the city’s community-based domestic violence advocates. 

Public health officials have echoed that stay-at-home orders have been beneficial in slowing the spread of COVID-19, but it has created dangerous situations for people who are experiencing domestic abuse. 

“While staying home except for essential needs is necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, it isn’t the safest option for everyone," said Mayor Breed.  Adding, "...there’s a growing need to have more safe places for survivors to go."

Many organizations have modified service to provide virtual support, but it is difficult for survivors to confidentially access those resources if they live in the same home as their abusive partner, San Francisco city officials said. 

The new temporary homes are located in several secure buildings throughout the city. Survivors and their families, including their pets, can move in at their convenience and can stay for up to 90 days at no cost.

The city said the until will be available by the end of the week. During that time, survivors will be supported by one of the city's community-based domestic violence agencies, who will provide wraparound services and referrals.

Domestic violence agencies will refer clients directly as needed, based on availability.