Serving Survivors: Using Domestic and Sexual Violence Bonus Funds and Other Resources Strategically

Written By: Sharon McDonald, National Alliance to End Homelessness; Debbie Fox, National Network to End Domestic Violence; and Monica McLaughlin, National Network to End Domestic Violence

One clear message from the Alliance’s blog post series on the 2021 NOFO is the importance of being strategic with how you use resources. Focus on the needs and gaps within your own system. Consider also the priorities laid out in the 2021 HUD Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO): advance racial equity, elevate the voices of those with lived experience, adhere to a Housing First approach, address unsheltered homelessness, focus on improving your system performance, and leverage partnerships to ensure you are advancing progress for all people experiencing homelessness.

This advice also holds true when considering how to make the most effective use of the Domestic Violence Bonus Funds outlined in the 2021 Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO).

This year, HUD will award approximately $100 million to CoCs applying for the Domestic Violence Bonus Funds as part of their NOFO application. These funds can be used for the following purposes:

  • Rapid Re-Housing for Survivors
  • Transitional Housing/Rapid Re-Housing Joint Component
  • SSO Project for Coordinated Entry

System leaders should assess gaps in your system before identifying possible bonus projects. Leaders should also be prepared to build the case of how the proposed investment of funds will improve overall system performance, improve the safety and housing outcomes of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking survivors, and advance the policy priorities identified by HUD to end homelessness. This post outlines some considerations for system leaders when assessing the most impactful use of funds.

What are Your System’s Unmet Needs?

A first step in determining the best use of funds is to consider the unmet needs of survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking within your existing homeless service system and beyond it. This involves assessing the resources available to assist survivors back into housing, including survivors in homeless service programs as well as those served in partnering agencies outside the homeless service system. It should also involve assessing how well homeless service programs and systems are coordinating with organizations assisting survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.

Improve Coordination of Resources Across Systems

Questions that localities may ask themselves when determining the most impactful use of DV Bonus funds is how well Coordinated Entry is functioning for survivors:

  • Is your Coordinated Entry System trauma-informed?
  • Are survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and trafficking assisted in developing safety plans?
  • Are safety considerations a component of every stage of service delivery for survivors in your system?
  • Are survivors in local domestic violence programs able to access the re-housing resources of your homeless service programs?
  • Are survivors in homeless service programs able to access the expertise and supportive services that domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking programs can offer them?

The DV Bonus funds can be used to improve Coordinated Entry and further integrate and streamline access to services and resources need so they have an immediate, trauma-informed, safe response to their housing crisis and can be assisted to the right interventions. Improving coordination across these systems of care can ensure the holistic and responsive interventions that all survivors deserve.

Re-housing Survivors to Safe Housing

The DV Bonus funds can be used for two different re-housing strategies: Rapid Re-housing and “Joint Component” Transitional Housing and Rapid Re-housing.

  • The Joint Component allow for longer stays in domestic violence or homeless services transitional housing programs for survivors who want more time in temporary housing with supportive services before reconnecting to housing. This approach supports transitional housing interventions, coupled with a Rapid Re-housing exit strategy.
  • Rapid Re-housing option is designed exclusively to increase local capacity to reconnect survivors quickly into their own housing, consistent with a DV Housing First approach.

Oftentimes a shortage or waitlist of emergency shelter resources compels systems to want to invest more resources in temporary housing options. This might not be the most effective use of resources, nor the one desired by people fleeing domestic violence, sexual assault or human trafficking.

Consider whether investing in Rapid Re-housing to move survivors quickly out of their housing crisis (either instead of, or after, a shelter stay) can alleviate the existing strain on emergency shelter options in your locality. If your system has fully scaled up re-housing assistance for survivors (which very few have), and people are opting for longer stays in temporary housing due to safety or other concerns, then the Joint Component might be the best option.

When making allocation decisions, consider the trade-off: the relative cost of one intervention over the other might mean that you will serve fewer households. The costlier choice might still be the right one, but decision-makers should be aware of the likely outcomes and numbers served given each option.

Remember also when considering survivors’ re-housing needs to consider survivors who are being assisted in homeless service programs as well as other programs serving survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. Sometimes the system where a survivor is sheltered is more a matter of chance than a reflection of the kinds of assistance they require. Many survivors would benefit from the expertise of both systems of care, well integrated to leverage the best of what both can offer.

Systems Must Consider Unsheltered Survivors

When identifying the unmet needs of survivors in your system, don’t forget to consider unsheltered survivors. According to the nation’s most recent point-in-time count, more single adults were identified living outdoors without shelter than within. Single unaccompanied women comprise a growing percentage of single adults experiencing homelessness and they are also increasing among the unsheltered population. Many are survivors of domestic and sexual violence and they are likely the survivors we are failing the most in our system.

A Los Angeles analysis of 2020 PIT data found 49 percent of unsheltered cisgender women report a history of intimate partner violence as do 60 percent of individuals who identify as transgender. A California Policy Lab analysis of VI-SPADT data found extraordinarily high rates of trauma and abuse history among unsheltered women. Approximately one-third of sheltered women (34%) reported abuse or trauma as the cause of their homelessness. It is much higher for unsheltered women: 80 percent of unsheltered women reported abuse or trauma as the cause of their homelessness. Unsheltered women also report going without stable housing for an average of 5,855 days – or 16 years! They also seem to remain outside of the shelter system, relying on shelter for only 18 nights on average over the course of a two year period.

The resources and expertise of both the homeless service system and victim service providers working together may offer the best opportunity to develop comprehensive, trauma-informed services that will help highly vulnerable unsheltered survivors exit homelessness and achieve safe housing.


Projects stemming from Domestic Violence Bonus funds should advance your locality’s work to end homelessness for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. This requires ensuring that interventions are safe and responsive to their needs across all programs, including re-housing assistance. Building bridges between often-siloed service sectors may be the best way to achieve this, informed and driven by the guidance of survivors.

The DV and Housing Technical Assistance Consortium will be hosting 2 HUD NOFO webinar trainings on serving survivors that we encourage your communities to attend to inform your strategic planning on how best to assist survivors:

  • Thursday, September 23rd from 1:30-3pm: Increasing Access to HUD CoC Housing for Culturally-Specific Communities. This webinar will provide an overview of best practices to increase access for culturally-specific communities to HUD Continuum of Care (CoC) housing programs and DV/SA/HT Bonus resources in the current HUD Notice of Funding Opportunity. The registration link is:
  • Wednesday, September 29th from 1-2:30pm: FY21 HUD CoC Program Competition: What Domestic and Sexual Violence Programs Need to Know” The registration link is: