Imagine you’ve just run from your home in fear, with your children at your side. You’ve moved into a shelter, so you’re living with a bunch of strangers. You feel safe for the first time in a long time, but then the reality sets in: “What am I going to do for money?”
Your abusive partner didn’t allow you to have a job, or handle the finances. At first, you thought that was a dream come true. Now you realize it was all about controlling and isolating you. You haven’t held a job in years, and have never paid bills.
This is a typical scenario for Hope House clients. That’s why, with the support of the Women’s Foundation, we offer a Self Sufficiency Program. The advocates that lead the program work with our clients individually and in groups to help them learn about how to handle their money and increase their employability. The program also provides transportation assistance so that getting to a training class, interview or job is not an issue.
In a 2009 study examining issues of concern to women in the Kansas City area, women identified “employment and finance” as the second most important issue facing them today. Within that category, participants identified the importance of job training, access to long-term employment, financial education, and accessible transportation.
Survivors of domestic violence face these same struggles in addition to living in constant
fear. The financial cost of leaving an abusive partner can be overwhelming. Once a woman leaves her partner, she becomes solely responsible for providing for her family.
In Hope House’s most recent completed fiscal year, 10/1/10-9/30/11, the average annual income for families sheltered at Hope House was only $4,447 without financial support from the abuser; 93% were below poverty; 54% reported no income at all. With little or no income, it is impossible for many survivors to immediately be self-sufficient and provide for the basic needs of food, shelter, and adequate health care coverage for themselves and their children.
Through the Self-Sufficiency Program, Hope House offers survivors of domestic violence an opportunity to gain both knowledge and skills in financial literacy and job readiness. With these new skills available to her, a mom can now support her kids. She doesn’t have to wonder if she should return to her abuser because she had no other way to pay the bills. She’s empowered to start a new life, free from abuse.