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CLS Letter of Support for PA House Bill 919


CLS Letter of Support for PA House Bill 919

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CLS Housing Unit Managing Attorney Rasheedah Phillips sent the following letter on September 10, 2018 to the Pennsylvania General Assembly Urban Affairs and Housing Committee in support of SB 919, a bill that would which would create a formal process for relocation to safer housing for domestic, dating and sexual violence, and stalking survivors living in subsidized housing. The Housing unit provided extensive legal analysis and technical support on the legislation. 

To the Members of the Urban Affairs and Housing Committee:

Community Legal Services of Philadelphia (CLS) submits this letter in support of SB 919 with our offered recommendations, which would allow relocation for domestic, dating and sexual violence, and stalking survivors in subsidized housing.  CLS provides free legal advice and representation to low-income tenants living in private and public housing in Philadelphia, including representing and advising survivors of sexual assault, dating violence, stalking, and domestic violence on their housing rights under Federal, state, and local law.  We urge the Committee to vote in favor of SB 919 by Senator Haywood to eliminate barriers to escaping domestic and sexual violence by allowing for the relocation of victim tenants to other affordable housing with another housing authority.

The effects and consequences of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking go beyond physical, mental, and emotional abuse. In the United States, domestic violence—including intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and stalking—is a major cause of homelessness, specifically for women and children.  Every year, CLS sees thousands of tenants come through our doors seeking help with their housing.  Many of these tenants live in subsidized housing and are unable to escape sexual assault and domestic violence without subjecting themselves and their children to homelessness. 

While the Philadelphia Housing Authority has implemented emergency transfer policies, too many victims still must wait long periods of time for units of appropriate size to become available in an area far away enough from the abuser.  SB919 goes a long way in eliminating the long wait times in dangerous conditions by providing that housing authorities execute agreements and cooperate with each other to accommodate relocation requests.  Through VAWA (Violence Against Women Act of 2013, 127 Stat. 54, Pub. L. 113-4 (Mar. 7, 2013), codified at 42 U.S.C. § 14043e-11), HUD already recommends that housing authorities cooperate with each other to facilitate relocation requests by victims seeking to escape abusers.  SB 919’s mandate that such cooperation be memorialized in written agreements between housing authorities eliminates significant barriers to timely relocation to a safe home.

CLS urges the Committee to pass SB 919.  Passage of this legislation will go a long way to further the cause of access to safe, stable, and affordable housing options so that survivors and their families can take significant steps toward creating happy and healthy lives, free of abuse and insecurity.

Respectfully submitted,

Rasheedah Phillips, Esq.

Community Legal Services, Inc.

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