Although the situation of women exposed to domestic violence and sexual abuse is very individual, the lack of access to safe housing in Saint Lucia worsens the situation for them all, we provide limited access to safe housing to victims due to budgetary constraints, while the Government of Saint Lucia also provide limited access due to space constraints.
The need for housing is often the most common and urgent one for survivors of domestic violence. Yet, is frequently also the most unmet as under normal circumstances housing stocks are low and one cannot find an affordable apartment due to low wages or unemployment.
Women who are abused in their homes often have no choice but to leave, entering homelessness due to a lack of safe housing opportunities. At the same time, women and their children who lack access to safe housing are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault and violence.
Our inhouse data shows a significant number of women and girls aged older than 15 have been suffering gender-based violence, including intimate partner violence or domestic violence. To escape from their perpetrator, women and their children often have no other option but to flee their homes, resulting in homeless.
This becomes even more apparent in the context of rapid urbanization and informal growth, where governments struggle with providing services. While informal settlements offer some freedoms and protections for women, these are usually outweighed by the risks and challenges that come with informal living such as eviction by government for squatting.
And yet, often informal living and housing represent the only opportunity for women to escape from abuse and violence. Compared to women with access to safe housing, women who live in informal settings face a lack of economic resources or severe health problems due to poor nutrition and limited access to basic services, resulting in higher rates of diseases and mortality. Moreover, the lack of privacy and poor environmental conditions cause or fuel intra-household tension – including domestic violence.
Female property owners and tenure holders are considerably less likely to experience domestic violence and are more capable of ending violent relationships. They enjoy higher status in the community, enhanced legal rights, greater economic independence, and bargaining power. Yet, in 2023 women still constituted less than 15 per cent of global landowners, and in urban areas, over 6 per cent more women than men are facing difficulties to secure tenure. Even if they succeed in finding housing and do not need to settle in informal neighborhoods, gender-based violence survivors are more likely to face eviction, which they are often unable to fight due to language barriers, societal status or unfamiliarity with prevailing legal and social security systems.
We continue to pay rent for safe space or support victims with temporary rental support, however our capacity to support all victms are severly hampered by financial constraints.
Domestic violence (DV) is understood as: All acts of physical, sexual, psychological, or economic violence that occur within the family or domestic unit or between former or current spouses or partners, whether the perpetrator shares or has shared the same residence with the victim.
The reason why more women’s shelters are urgently needed is that women still experience violence from their husbands, partners, or strangers. According to international surveys every third to every fifth women after the age of 15 years old experiences violence. Women’s shelters are considered as essential services for women and children fleeing domestic violence. Violence against women is not random violence, it is a specific form of violence which affects women and girls disproportionally. The Istanbul Convention defines “gender-based violence as violence “directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately” (Article 3 of the Istanbul Convention).
As the leading advocate for eliminating domestic violence in SAINT LUCIA, we provide safe space for a limited number of persons, information, and training about domestic violence to survivors, victims, and the general community. Through multi-faceted programs we assist victims in transforming their lives after domestic violence, prevent future abuse by addressing its root cause through personal capacity building and support such as food, shelter, clothing, legal aid, counseling, and education support for children, we also advocate to educate the community about domestic violence and how we can all support victims.
All services are free and available to survivors regardless of race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. A large proportion of clients have suffered the traumas of violence, and some are homeless or dislocated in addition to domestic violence, and 85 percent are low-income. To meet clients’ needs, we apply for grant or ask for donations.
We offer temporary shelter and an intensive recovery program for women with children who are struggling to overcome the trauma of domestic violence. We promote healing and recovery for the mothers and children we serve and empower the women to become self-sufficient so they can live thriving lives, free from poverty and violence. Our services include individual, family, and group counseling; classes in domestic violence, wellness, and positive parenting; women work on education and job readiness; training in budgeting and money management to ensure financial stability; and an Aftercare Program with support groups and services that promote long-term recovery.
Support us to continue this critical program for victims of gender-based violence.
Over the past ten (10) years and months, we have taken swift and decisive action to mobilize what has been an unprecedented response to protect our most vulnerable clients. We have tried to stay one step ahead of the rise in Domestic Violence Incidents and the need for safe shelter for victims and their children during the pandemic and continue to adapt and evolve our response as the situation has continued to change rapidly. This tremendous accomplishment would not have been possible without the tireless commitment, partnership and strong communication across from our donors and volunteers. This has been no small task, however we continue to push forward, relentlessly, because we understand and recognize that the people we are committed to supporting depend on the services we provide. Reflecting on this experience, it is clear that we cannot go back to the way things used to be once this pandemic is over. We have an opportunity to do things differently and we need to take action collectively (CSO’s, NGO’s and State) and mobilize towards a shared goal. We can have a significant impact on the lives of people experiencing domestic violence and need safe shelter. Looking ahead, we will continue working collaboratively with like minded partners to ensure we are prepared for a potential second wave of COVID-19 or other such event which creates widespread displacements for victims and survivors. We will also leverage opportunities presented by the pandemic to shift the system towards prevention and minimization by exploring opportunities to provide permanent housing solutions that protect the health and well-being of people experiencing gender based violence. While COVID-19 has magnified the issue of domestic violence, as we shift toward recovery efforts, building on this foundation provides an opportunity to rebuild a better future for all. I want to extend my sincere gratitude for your ongoing partnership and commitment to providing services to the most vulnerable members of our community.
Domestic violence is one of the primary causes of homelessness for women and their children in the Saint Lucia our data reflects. According to the data collected from clients, between 22 and 57 percent of women and children are homeless due to domestic violence, with 38 percent of all victims experiencing homeless at some point in their lives due to domestic violence. Victims who leave their abusive partner multiple times due to domestic violence often experience multiple events of homelessness.
When a victim of domestic violence chooses to leave their abusive partner, safe and affordable housing is one of the primary barriers they will face for themselves and their children. In a short survey conducted in 2021, more than 1,000 adults and children fleeing domestic violence found only temporary refuge in the state emergency shelter, at friends, family, etc. For every five cases which we process four requests housing and shelter. Due to space constraints at least two out of every four victims who identified a need for housing services did not receive housing due to both space and resource constraints.
Though emergency shelters can be a source of immediate short-term safety, we would like to provide transitional housing victims a housing option and supportive services—including counseling, childcare, transportation, life skills, education and/or job training—for up to 24 months. It is a safe, affordable option that empowers survivors to begin rebuilding their lives after fleeing abuse. Transitional housing programs give survivors the time and services they need to achieve goals for long-term safety and stability. Without these programs, survivors may have no other option than to return to their abuser’s home or face homelessness.
We have recently received a lease at minimal rate for a plot of land that can be used to build a transitional housing our challenge now is to source funding for the construction, equipping and furnishing. Transitional Housing supports economic empowerment and survivor autonomy while using a voluntary services model. While the solutions to addressing domestic violence and its related consequences must encompass a broad range of interventions and options for domestic violence survivors, strategies must be trauma-informed and survivor-centered. If our goal is to truly empower survivors of domestic violence, they must be provided with the tools to establish economic self-sufficiency, short-term goal-setting, and long-term planning for their futures. Your help is important to us.
Shelter space for domestic violence victims is limited and shrinking
Domestic Violence shelter space for domestic violence victims is limited and shrinking as abuse cases continue to rise during this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic
When we look at the number of domestic violence calls made to our organization, and how many people used our services at our own safe between May 2020 to October 2021 there is a crisis within a crisis in Saint Lucia.
But it is important to keep tracking the numbers to more accurately analyze the trends.
While we did not record any domestic homicides in that period, lack of shelter space for abused victims remains a serious issue and hundreds of people couldn't get immediate shelter or find a place to stay when they sought help. This was due to limited shelter space by both state and NGO’s but also because people were not allowing anyone in their private homes for fear of being infected and then infecting them and their families with COVID.
Despite the frustration at turning people away, the upside is that we have realized there is a serious need and we are working to increase shelter space in the next year, while encouraging the Gov’t to work towards increasing state shelter spaces in their own shelters.
We are working to ensure we don't lose any ground that we've made regarding domestic violence, how victims are treated and how service providers react
Presently we are working on a project to create inter agency collaboration and communication and to synchronize processes and procedures used for the provision of domestic violence support services at both state and NGO levels.
Between January to October, 2021, we provided shelter for approximately 107 persons in our safe spaces, 28 at private off-site spaces and 11 at varying locations. It cost us a total of US$300 per day per client to provide a comprehensive set of support services, we can only continue this work with your help.
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