Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said Sunday she would continue to pressure the federal government to count victims of domestic violence in its national homeless statistics — a move that could increase funding for permanent housing for women and children living in shelters and hotels.
“Women and children are too often the invisible homeless,’’ Gillibrand said at a news conference at her Manhattan office.
“HUD [Department of Housing and Urban Development] ignores the women and children who are forced to leave abusive homes in their census,’’ she said as several city and statewide advocates for the homeless stood at her side.
“We need to make sure that the federal money going to our homeless shelters and non-profits is being allocated in the best way possible, so that homeless New Yorkers, including those who have experienced domestic violence, can get the help they need,’’ said Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
For the past year, Gillibrand has been asking HUD officials to change agency policy and mandate local governments to count victims of domestic violence in their annual reports. This week, she said she will write a letter to President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team to count victims of domestic violence as a separate category.
“HUD can do it. It’s a policy change. Women, children and older women are the most marginalized. And we need to give them a voice,’’ she said.
“Staying in a dangerous situation for shelter’’ is a choice no one should have to make, said Carol Corden, executive director at New Destiny Housing, which provides permanent housing to homeless families in New York City. She said counting victims of domestic violence separately will increase funding for rental subsidies, access to job training and mental health services.
“It’s emotionally challenging to leave,’’ said Rose Marie Forrester, 44, of Brooklyn, who fled an abusive home with her children. She and her family were able to get permanent housing. “Once we were in a safe home we were all able to start thriving emotionally and academically.
“My son was just accepted to a prestigious college and I am back at school getting a master’s degree,’’ Forrester said.
Nassau and Suffolk counties have been reporting victims of domestic violence in their homeless population. New York City resumed reporting victims of domestic violence in 2015.
Ariel Zwang, CEO of Safe Horizon, a nonprofit organization, said without counting victims of domestic violence in the nation’s homeless population “we can’t possibly hope to obtain federal support . . . We look forward to the day when our clients no longer have to choose between safety and homelessness.”