By Matt Vasilogambros
In its annual count of the city’s homeless population, New York in 2015 listed how many people fit into 10 different groups: nearly 4,000 chronically homeless, more than 8,000 severely mentally ill, 1,500 veterans, and so on. But when the list got to victims of domestic violence, the annual federally mandated count showed one striking number: zero.
Far from the reality on the ground — nearly a third of homeless families with children have experienced domestic violence, according to the city’s Department of Social Services — the glaring statistical gap in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Point-in-Time count was a red flag for advocates who work with victims every day.
Without an accurate count of people who are homeless because of domestic violence, communities across the country can’t fully understand and serve their homeless population, said Carol Corden, one of those advocates.
“If you ignore them, you ignore a major part of homelessness,” said Corden, the executive director of New York-based New Destiny Housing, which connects low-income victims of domestic violence with affordable permanent housing.
This year, after lobbying from advocates for homeless women and children like Corden, the annual count will for the first time ask people whether they are currently homeless because of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence or stalking. HUD had previously suggested that communities ask homeless people if they had ever experienced domestic violence, but the narrower question will help paint a more accurate picture, Corden said.