On Thursday, April 26, the U.S. Senate voted to pass S. 1925, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 in a vote of 68 to 31. This reauthorization, sponsored by Senator Leahy from Vermont and co-sponsored by 61 bipartisan Members of the Senate, has stronger language to help protect LGBT, tribal, and immigrant survivors which gained the bill its 31 “nays” in the Senate and fairly wide media attention.
Perhaps of more importance in the field of homelessness assistance is another provision of the bill, it would provide particular protections for survivors in a variety of HUD programs. Current law provides survivors with protections from eviction and the opportunity to transfer in Section 8 and Public Housing. This reauthorization bill would extend those protections to a variety of other HUD programs, including McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance grant, Sections 202 and 811, and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, among others. And, if transfer is not possible, it requires HUD to establish a policy for how a survivor can access a Section 8 voucher instead.
VAWA was first passed in 1994 and since then has created a number of successful programs to help protect survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. One of those programs, the Office of Violence Against Women’s (OVW) Transitional Housing Grants administered by the Department of Justice helps survivors leave abusers and access safe housing with voluntary support services to help the survivor and their family stabilize in housing. Providers who implement these programs often utilize a transition in place model that provides survivors with the security of permanent housing and a lease in their own name.
Now that the bill has passed in the Senate, it will be taken up in the House where there are three versions of a reauthorization bill introduced all of which have been referred to committee. A mark-up is scheduled for May 8 for the bill sponsored by Congresswoman Adams (R-FL) which is similar to a Republican alternative to the Leahy bill (S. 1925) that just passed in the Senate.