$850k Congressionally Directed Spending request will allow Sojourner House to expand housing portfolio, provide supportive services to clients experiencing abuse
Providence, RI – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse joined Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, Rhode Island Secretary of Housing Josh Saal, and representatives of Sojourner House this morning to announce $850,000 in federal funding for the agency to support safe housing for victims of abuse in Rhode Island.
“Survivors and advocates have made it clear that access to safe housing saves lives in a moment of crisis,” said Senator Whitehouse. “Sojourner House provides many Rhode Island victims and families with shelter and helps them reclaim their lives from abuse. I’m thrilled to have delivered this federal funding that will go toward increasing the safe housing inventory in our state.”
With this federal funding, Sojourner House will be able to expand its residential housing portfolio by purchasing an additional building that will be rehabilitated and eventually leased to families who have experienced abuse. The funding will also allow Sojourner House to provide supportive services to the clients who lease these safe, confidential apartments, which includes individual case management, clinical counseling, immigration advocacy, youth programming, and more.
“Sojourner House is extremely grateful to Senator Whitehouse and the entire RI delegation for their on-going support of our work to provide safe, secure housing to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. This generous appropriation will allow us to expand our housing portfolio to secure additional properties that we eventually will be able to lease as permanent housing to families impacted by abuse,” said Sojourner House’s executive director, Vanessa Volz. “Due to our work, we are too familiar with the fact that safe, secure housing is often a barrier for a victim to flee from an abusive situation. The more stable, permanent housing options we can provide for families to rebuild their lives, the more successful we can become in breaking the cycle of abuse that often forces victims to return to an abusive situation.”
“Providence has made significant investments to tackle our housing crisis from every direction, including prevention, rapid rehousing, emergency services, and long term supports,” said Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. “We know that housing insecurity is a complex and multifaceted issue that requires our community to come together with solutions that are creative and compassionate. I thank Senator Whitehouse for always working hard to identify funds to support this work, and Sojourner House for leading efforts to increase the stock of affordable housing options in the City, including for survivors of abuse.”
Increasing the inventory of safe housing is one of the most pressing needs for domestic violence survivors in Rhode Island and across the nation. The National Network to End Domestic Violence reported that, on any given day in 2020, nearly 10,000 requests for services went unmet, and of those unmet requests, 64 percent were for safe housing. For those individuals who are not able to find safe housing, the consequences can be dire, including continued exposure to life-threatening violence or homelessness.
“Domestic violence and abuse are one of the leading causes of homelessness,” said Secretary of Housing Josh Saal. “Our office is proud to partner with Sojourner House, local municipalities and other agencies to create more equitable housing options that enable survivors of domestic violence to find a safe and permanent home while receiving the support they need to piece their lives back together.”
As a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Whitehouse has led the charge in Washington to strengthen federal support and funding for programs designed to protect victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Whitehouse was a cosponsor of the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2022, which was passed in March alongside the FY22 government funding package. Among other provisions, the bill strengthens rape prevention and education efforts; expands and authorizes programs to serve survivors requiring culturally specific services, LGBT survivors, and survivors who seek voluntary, community-based restorative practice services; supports legal services funding and trauma-informed law enforcement responses; and improves responses to sexual violence, including through grants to promote the training of sexual assault forensic examiners.
Whitehouse was also an original cosponsor of the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act of 2021, which redirects monetary penalties from federal deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements into the Crime Victims Fund. This fix authorized an additional estimated $4-7 billion in non-taxpayer money for victim compensation and assistance programs in Rhode Island and across the country.