Shortly after he took office, President Obama created the White Housing Council on Women and Girls. Chaired by Valerie Jarrett, the council is charged with ensuring there is a coordinated effort between federal agencies of policies and programs that impact women and families.
As a partner of the interagency council, HUD serves as a safety net for vulnerable women and girls, whether they are living with HIV/AIDS or living in shelters for victims of abuse. Providing them with physical and emotional safety, HUD works hard to place women and girls in transitional housing, public housing and rental housing, where they will experience a continuum of care ranging from substance abuse counseling, to financial literacy classes to job training.
Through the Continuum of Care grant competition, HUD has awarded $46.7 million to continue 349 projects that predominately serve victims of domestic violence as well as an additional $2.6 million to support 28 new projects. All these projects provide much needed housing and services for victims of domestic violence.
In 2013, HUD was able to expand housing protections for victims of domestic violence thanks to the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. This allowed HUD to make necessary changes and begin alerting the public of how the changes will impact tenants and housing providers in HUD-assisted housing and shelters.
While ensuring victims of domestic violence don’t end up homeless, HUD is also continuing to identify best practices, share guidance and award funding to communities based on the policy priorities of the Opening Doors plan to prevent and end homelessness. Since 2010, family homelessness has decreased by 10.7 percent.
Last year, HUD graduated 3,400 families from the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program. This means they were free of welfare assistance and employed. Over 90 percent of FSS participants are female-headed households, 33 percent of graduates no longer needed rental assistance, and 15 percent went on to purchase a home.
HUD has also aggressively investigated and resolved cases where women experienced lending discrimination for being pregnant or on parental leave. In 2013 alone, HUD settled 28 cases obtaining almost $300,000 for 43 complainants. Thanks to HUD’s efforts, some of the country’s largest lenders have changed their policies and practices on maternity leave lending.
HUD continues to make great strides in ensuring our policies and programs are taking into account the needs of women and girls. HUD had many great accomplishments last year, but we have work left to do. As we look forward to making more progress in 2014, we are driven by what President Obama said in the State of the Union, “When women succeed, America succeeds.”
Shaun Donovan is the Secretary for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.