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Congressmen Gonzalez and Poliquin Introduce Legislation to Protect Victims of Domestic Violence in Rural America

May 3, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON—Congressmen Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15) and Bruce Poliquin (ME-02) introduced H.R. 5654, the VAWA Protections for Rural Women Act of 2018, that will add the Rural Housing Voucher program to the list of covered housing programs under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This is another crucial step toward protecting victims of domestic violence from homelessness.

An astounding 92 percent of homeless women have experienced severe physical or sexual violence, while almost 50 percent of all homeless women report that domestic violence was the immediate cause of their homelessness. Additionally, upwards of 25 percent of women in rural areas live more than 40 miles from programs that can provide assistance.

“Access to safe and affordable housing is frequently a determining factor in whether victims of domestic violence are able to leave abusive circumstances,” Congressman Gonzalez said. “For those victims that reside in rural areas, the options are currently few and far between. I am proud to sponsor the VAWA Protections for Rural Women Act of 2018, which will expand access to safe housing for one of our most vulnerable populations in rural America.”

Unfortunately, the Rural Housing Voucher Program was not originally included under VAWA, leaving individuals holding these vouchers extremely vulnerable to homelessness. This act is designed to fill the gap in housing support for rural victims. All other rural housing programs, the Department of Housing and Urban Development rental assistance programs, and the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program are currently included as covered housing programs under VAWA.

“The Violence Against Women Act was a milestone law to help mobilize resources for victims and aid in preventing and responding to abuse and violence,” Congressman Poliquin said. “I’m proud to support this bipartisan proposal to make a sensible fix to the original 1994 law so that the same protections for victims in most public housing programs extend to those in this rural housing program that serves our rural communities, especially in states like Maine. Abuse and violence does not discriminate between those in rural and urban settings, and it’s important that victims can access the same protections and support no matter where they live.”