Katherine Verano is wrestling with an 830% increase in costs compared with last year for hoteling victims of domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic. After a quiet period during the first months of the pandemic, when much of the state was locked down, domestic violence shelters started running at about 150% capacity during the summer months. When providers ran out of room for social distancing, clients had to be placed in hotels and fed. It’s been a complex time, said Verano, the executive director of Safe Futures, a New London-based nonprofit dedicated to providing counseling, services and shelter to victims of domestic violence in 21 southeastern towns. Safe Futures’ budget for hoteling clients has increased steadily this year.
Building a new emergency housing system that would accommodate the privacy needs of victims of domestic violence in Connecticut has been complicated, frustrating work. When a person who is homeless is seeking to be housed, their name, age, and other details are entered into something called the Homeless Management Information System, or HMIS. This data is then used to direct people toward appropriate housing, and it’s a big part of why Connecticut is on track to ending chronic homelessness—the most pernicious kind—by the end of the year. But the Violence Against Women Act, which was signed into law in 1994, contains some strict confidentiality restrictions to protect victims of domestic violence. When a woman—and it’s usually a woman—escapes domestic violence, her first concern is safety.