Harris County, TX — In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Commissioner Lesley Briones highlighted the critical work of the Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council (HCDVCC) and the 19 nonprofits awarded grants through the Domestic Violence Assistance Fund (DVAF).
In response to the alarming increase of intimate partner violence and lack of access to safety for survivors during the COVID-19 pandemic, Harris County Commissioners Court established the Domestic Violence Assistance Fund in 2020, initially allocating $1 million from the federal CARES Act Response and Recovery fund. An additional $4.7 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding for the DVAF was approved for 2022-2024.
During a press conference held October 27, HCDVCC reported its partners have disbursed nearly $1.3 million, as of August 31, 2023. This funding has assisted over 600 households and approximately 1,800 individuals, delivering immediate financial assistance to survivors and addressing a range of pressing needs such as food, housing, transportation, and childcare.
"The DVAF helped me at the right moment to use it to cover the expenses I needed at that point,” said a client of Daya who asked to remain anonymous. Daya, a DVAF grant recipient organization, serves South Asian women, children and men in the Houston area who have been the victims of domestic violence or sexual assault.
In 2022, Harris County led the state in intimate partner homicides, and intimate partner violence homicides in Harris County have doubled from 2019 to 2022, per a 2023 study by the University of Houston’s Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality.
"It is unacceptable that Harris County leads the state in intimate partner homicides and that such homicides are increasing so significantly. Everyone deserves to be safe and free from violence. We must do more to protect survivors and their families by prioritizing investments like the Domestic Violence Awareness Fund to strengthen Harris County’s efforts to combat domestic violence," Commissioner Briones said.
In March 2023, the HCDVCC, which administers the fund, distributed grants of up to $350,000 to 19 community-based organizations.
“The number of near fatal and fatal domestic violence homicide cases continue to be critical concerns in our community and systems and organizations increasingly struggle with the ability to meet the acute needs presented by at-risk survivors when referrals to them are made. The sheer volume of domestic violence cases within Harris County demands the need for multiple ways to connect with survivors to provide safety and assistance and the Domestic Violence Assistance Fund is meeting this need,” said Barbie Brashear, Executive Director of Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council.
“The Domestic Violence Community is extremely grateful to Harris County Commissioners for creating the Domestic Violence Assistance Fund. This project is creating unique solutions for increasing safety to families experiencing domestic violence. It is allowing families to say how they need to be served and agencies the ability to meet that need. It is serving as a national model for how flexible funding can increase and expand avenues and pathways to safety that are victim defined and focused”.
“DVAF funds are an asset for Harris County residents who are survivors of domestic violence and valuable to agencies such as Bay Area Turning Point, allowing us the flexibility to immediately address survivors’ everyday needs,” said Wykesha Dixon, deputy director, Bay Area Turning Point.
“Abuse can escalate to life altering damage for the victims and their children. Thanks to funding from Harris County, we can deliver on essential victim services to make our neighborhoods better,” said Sarah Nejdl, founder and executive director, Families to Freedom.
“This funding is just the beginning of what must be a significant investment to expand Harris County’s domestic violence infrastructure coordination and staffing,” Commissioner Briones said. “I am grateful for the partnership of the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council and look forward to finding ways Harris County can support long-term investments that will substantially improve capacity for our domestic violence service providers”.