Legislation Assembly Democrats Daniel Benson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Elizabeth Muoio, Raj Mukherji, Nicholas Chiaravalloti and Benjie Wimberly sponsored to provide emergency housing assistance for victims of domestic violence was advanced Monday by a Senate committee.
“There have been many times when victims of domestic violence have been denied emergency assistance because they voluntarily left a job where their abuser could find them or failed to plan for substitute housing – situations that are typically out of their control, especially for many who have limited means,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Our number one priority should be ensuring their safety and getting them back on their feet, and that’s what this bill will do.”
The bill (A-4406) would provide for emergency assistance, typically in the form of rental assistance, to individuals or families who are homeless or in a temporary living arrangement due to imminent or demonstrated domestic violence that imperils their health and safety.
“The descent into homelessness can happen rapidly for a number of reasons – including domestic violence – but one thing we’ve learned is that the climb out can be arduous to near-impossible without a helping hand,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “We’ve examined the issue to find ways that we can maximize state resources so that they have a real and transformative impact on the lives of homeless residents in our state, and housing assistance is one of them.”
“This legislation is intended to ensure that victims of domestic violence receive support from the emergency assistance program, even if they must depart their home abruptly and without adequate time to ensure compliance with other program requirements,” said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “More often than not, that is the case and we need to make sure we’re accounting for that.”
“When a domestic violence victim makes the decision to flee their home and their abuser, the circumstances are usually dire,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “They often don’t have the luxury of time or the financial means to plan for other accommodations. Knowing they have access to emergency assistance may help some victims escape a dangerous or even deadly situation.”
“No one should feel trapped in an abusive situation because of the fear that leaving will mean being out on the street,” said Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). “Ensuring that victims of domestic violence have housing will help strengthen our state’s support for residents who are in the midst of a crisis.”
“One of the top causes of homelessness among women and children in the United States is domestic violence, and it’s an utter shame that so many Americans feel like they have to make a choice between being safe and having housing,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Our state can – and should – do better on behalf of its residents.”
The bill, which the Assembly passed 75-2 in June, was advanced by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and now awaits further Senate consideration.