Investments in this strategy aim to reduce the number of families in abusive homes by streamlining the process of finding new housing, putting in place policies that address survivors’ financial and legal challenges, facilitating gainful employment through day care and public transport, and linking survivors with social, medical, and support services and advocates. The sections below include an overview of the strategy for achieving desired goals, supporting evidence, core metrics that help measure performance toward goals, and a curated list of resources to support collecting, reporting on, and using data for decision-making.

What

Dimensions of Impact: WHAT

Investors interested in deploying this strategy should consider the scale of the addressable problem, what positive outcomes might be, and how important the change would be to the people (or planet) experiencing it.

Key questions in this dimension include:

What is the problem the investment is trying to address? For the people experiencing the problem, how important is this change?

A majority of homeless women report that domestic violence was the immediate cause of their homelessness (4), and children of homeless mothers are also more likely to have emotional or behavioral problems (3). For any individuals in unsafe housing situations who face abuse and cannot find alternate, stable housing, the outcomes associated with this investment strategy are likely critical—to the physical and mental health of victims, their families, and especially their children (6). Investments in this theme can reduce the number of end beneficiaries in abusive homes by:

1. Survivors of domestic assault frequently report having great difficulty finding new housing (4). Investments in this theme can streamline this process; since domestic violence survivors routinely face discrimination when searching for housing (often due to their abusers’ behavior), property managers can work with social service organizations and advocates to understand the particular issues surrounding domestic violence (4).

What is the scale of the problem?

In the United States, 44% of mayors identify domestic violence as the primary cause of homelessness in their cities (4). Per reports by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, more than 80% of mothers with children who experience homelessness have previously experienced domestic violence, and their children are more likely to have emotional or behavioral problems (3). A study of 3,400 shelter residents in domestic violence programs across eight states found that, at the time of shelter entry, 84% of survivors identified assistance finding affordable housing as one of their main needs (5).

Who

Dimensions of Impact: WHO

Investors interested in deploying this strategy should consider whom they want to target, as almost every strategy has a host of potential beneficiaries. While some investors may target women of color living in a particular rural area, others may set targets more broadly, e.g., women. Investors interested in targeting particular populations should focus on strategies that have been shown to benefit those populations.

Key questions in this dimension include:

Who/What is helped through this strategy?

While this strategy has many potential beneficiaries, with the specific intended beneficiaries varying by investor preference, abusive housing conditions in many developed markets primarily affect the following individuals, who are therefore more frequently targeted:

Women: Investments seeking to reduce domestic abuse primarily target women, although, importantly, not all victims are women. In the U.S., sixty-three percent of homeless women have suffered domestic abuse in their adult lifetimes, compared to around 10% of men (1).

Children: Among children, particularly children of single-parent households (largely headed by women), domestic abuse is the leading cause of homelessness. Domestic trauma can prolong homelessness for children and families (1). In addition, violence against young children can also create significant challenges later in life in terms of their physical and mental health, as well as their educational and employment outcomes.

LGBTQ Individuals: More than 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ, suffering social stigma and discrimination. LGBTQ youth are often rejected by their families and correspondingly face higher incidence of domestic abuse and significantly higher incidence of homelessness (2).

What are the geographic attributes of those who benefit?

Though domestic violence impacts the lives of both rural and urban individuals, U.S. data show that impacts a higher percentage of rural women than urban women (22.5% compared to 15.5%), and that women in rural locations reported more severe physical abuse than urban women (11). The same study also found that rural women lived three times further from the nearest domestic violence resource than their urban counterparts, with over 25% of rural women living over 40 miles from the closest program. In the U.K., a study found urban and rural rates of domestic violence to be very similar, suggesting that perhaps this gap in domestic violence rates and access is country-specific (12). Abusive homes are found in all developed economies, with the U.K., U.S., Australia, Poland, and Romania having comparatively high levels (13).

Contribution

Dimensions of Impact: CONTRIBUTION

Investors considering investing in a company or portfolio aligned with this strategy should consider whether the effect they want to have compares to what is likely to happen anyway. Is the investment's contribution ‘likely better’ or ‘likely worse’ than what is likely to occur anyway across What, How much and Who?

Key questions in this dimension include:

Is the investment’s contribution ‘likely better’ or ‘likely worse’ than what is likely to occur anyway across What, How Much and Who?

The extent to which this strategy can reduce the number of individuals in abusive homes depends on the particular affordable housing project and the nature of the housing brought to market. Housing accessibility requires units that are physically, financially, and intellectually accessible to their intended end beneficiaries, and many investees rely on nonprofit or government case workers to place individuals in their units. As part of this strategy, end beneficiaries often require additional support to ensure their occupancy is sustainable and that they have successfully removed themselves from dangerous, abusive situations.

How Much

Dimensions of Impact: HOW MUCH

Investors deploying capital into investments aligned with this strategy should think about how significant the investment's effect might be. What is likely to be the change's breadth, depth, and duration?

Key questions in this dimension include:

How many can receive the outcome through this strategy?

The number of individuals who this strategy can target is dependent on the number of individuals living in abusive environments for whom housing presents the primary barrier to exit. Offering accessible housing is but one essential element of a comprehensive solution for those trapped in abusive situations, so adequate statistics are scarce regarding the number of individuals who might be helped by this strategy (6).

How much change can beneficiaries experience through this strategy?

The amount of change that end beneficiaries can receive through this strategy depends on the housing itself, any additional support services offered alongside the housing, and the extent to which the investment succeeds in providing a stable, abuse-free environment to its inhabitants.

Illustrative Investment

New Destiny Housing is a New York City nonprofit that develops affordable rental units for low-income families with a focus on providing on-site services tailored specifically to families coming from the domestic violence shelter system. To avoid stigmatizing survivors, their buildings always include a mix of tenants, including low-income families without a history of abuse. Additionally, New Destiny facilitates access to housing by developing relationships with third-party landlords and by providing support to women during the rental process. In 2013, New Destiny converted an existing Bronx apartment building into The Morris, a 39-unit affordable residence in which half of the units are reserved for survivors of domestic abuse. As with all of their buildings, New Destiny’s program staff offers on-site support, including case management, recreational activities, and referrals to specialized services (10).

Draw on Evidence

This mapped evidence shows what outcomes and impacts this strategy can have, based on academic and field research.

NESTA: 1
Toward Understanding Homelessness: The National Symposium on Homelessness 2007

Paul A. Toro. “Toward An International Understanding of Homelessness.“ Journal of Social Issues 63, no. 3 (2007): 461-481.

NESTA: 2
Having Housing Made Everything Else Possible’: Affordable, Safe and Stable Housing for Women Survivors of Violence

Amber Clough, Jessica E. Draughon, Veronica Njie-Carr, Chiquita Rollins, and Nancy Glass. “‘Having Housing Made Everything Else Possible’: Affordable, Safe and Stable Housing for Women Survivors of Violence.“ Qualitative Social Work 13, no. 5 (2014): 671-688.

NESTA: 2
A Descriptive Analysis of Transitional Housing Programs for Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence in the United States

Charlene K.Baker, Phyllis Holditch Niolon, and Hilary Oliphant. “A Descriptive Analysis of Transitional Housing Programs for Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence in the United States.“ Violence Against Women 15, no. 4 (2009): 460-481.

NESTA: 3
Intimate Partner Violence and Housing Instability

Joanne Pavao, Jennifer Alvarez, Nikki Baumrind, Marta Induni, and Rachel Kimerling. “Intimate Partner Violence and Housing Instability.“ American Journal of Preventive Medicine 32, no. 2 (2007): 143-146.

NESTA: 3
Physical and Mental Health Effects of Intimate Partner Violence for Men and Women

Ann L. Coker, Keith E. Davis, Ileana Arias, Sujata Desai, Maureen Sanderson, Heather M. Brandt, and Paige H. Smith. “Physical and Mental Health Effects of Intimate Partner Violence for Men and Women.“ American Journal of Preventive Medicine23, no. 4 (2002): 260-268.

NESTA: 2
Domestic Violence and Housing Problems: A Contextual Analysis of Women's Help-seeking, Received Informal Support, and Formal System Response

Charlene K. Baker, Sarah L. Cook, and Fran H. Norris. “Domestic Violence and Housing Problems: A Contextual Analysis of Women’s Help-seeking, Received Informal Support, and Formal System Response.“ Violence Against Women 9, no. 7 (2003): 754-783.

NESTA: 2
Intimate Violence in the Lives of Homeless and Poor Housed Women: Prevalence and Patterns in an Ethnically Diverse Sample

Angela Browne, and Shari S. Bassuk. “Intimate Volence in the Lives of Homeless and Poor Housed Women: Prevalence and Patterns in an Ethnically Diverse Sample.“ American journal of orthopsychiatry 67, no. 2 (1997): 261.

NESTA: 2
Why Does Family Homelessness Occur? A Case-Control Study

Ellen L. Bassuk, and Lynn Rosenberg. “Why Does Family Homelessness Occur? A Case-Control Study.“ American Journal of Public Health 78, no. 7 (1988): 783-788.

NESTA: 2
Characteristics of Sheltered Homeless Families

Ellen L. Bassuk, Lenore Rubin, and Alison S. Lauriat. “Characteristics of Sheltered Homeless Families.“ American Journal of Public Health 76, no. 9 (1986): 1097-1101.

NESTA: 2
Reasons for Returning to Abusive Relationships: Effects of Prior Victimization

Sascha Griffing, Deborah Fish Ragin, Sheena M. Morrison, Robert E. Sage, Lorraine Madry, and Beny J. Primm. “Reasons for Returning to Abusive Relationships: Effects of Prior Victimization.“ Journal of Family Violence 20, no. 5 (2005): 341-348.

NESTA: 2
Positive Outcomes for Victims of Domestic Violence and Families Through Housing First Pilot Program

Kiley Gosselin. “Positive Outcomes for Victims of Domestic Violence and Families Through Housing First Pilot Program.” United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, 2015.

Each resource is assigned a rating of rigor according to the NESTA Standards of Evidence.

Define Metrics

Core Metrics

This starter set of core metrics — chosen from the IRIS catalog with the input of impact investors who work in this area — indicate performance toward objectives within this strategy. They can help with setting targets, tracking performance, and managing toward success.

Additional Metrics

While the above core metrics provide a starter set of measurements that can show outcomes of a portfolio targeted toward this goal, the additional metrics below — or others from the IRIS catalog — can provide more nuance and depth to understanding your impact.