Alaska doesn’t have sufficient housing to maintain survivors of home violence protected

After she left her abusive boyfriend, Brynn Butler additionally misplaced her house. Drug use is a standard coping response to the trauma of unhealthy relationships and he or she stated her dependancy to methamphetamines “spiraled.”

“It simply snowballed into, just about I misplaced all the things, proper? I used to be staying at a lure home with my kids who had been 12 and 13 on the time,” she stated.

One other man promised her housing and stability in one other state so she may “get her life straight,” however she stated that ended up being one other abusive scenario. When he broke her eye socket, Butler stated she determined to alter her life.

“I used to be actually hesitant to go to the emergency room, as a result of I had monitor marks throughout my arms and I used to be only a very sore sight,” she stated. “I seemed within the mirror and I’m like, ‘Who is that this individual?’ after which I made a decision I couldn’t do meth anymore.”


Brynn Butler in her office in downtown Fairbanks on September 14, 2023. (Photo by Claire Stremple/Alaska Beacon.)
Brynn Butler in her workplace in downtown Fairbanks on September 14, 2023. (Photograph by Claire Stremple/Alaska Beacon.)

Butler went to the Inside Alaska Heart for Non-violent Residing in Fairbanks and was positioned in transitional housing, the place she may keep on the girls’s shelter for six months and stabilize. The workers noticed such a dramatic change in Butler that they provided her a job, which helped her work in direction of impartial dwelling.

Survivors of home violence usually want help to safe and pay for housing as a result of abusers generally sabotage their sufferer’s financial stability. That can lead to hassle discovering rental properties due to poor credit score, rental and employment histories. The assist Butler acquired for housing gave her room to stop medication and maintain down a job. Now she is the housing coordinator for the town of Fairbanks, and he or she’s working to construct out transitional providers for the neighborhood.

A variety of home violence survivors in Fairbanks say housing saved their lives. Reasonably priced housing is a vital step for stability after home violence, however it’s onerous to come back by in Fairbanks and throughout Alaska. Advocates say that causes a backup in shelters, which might imply extra folks return to their abusers or different dangerous conditions.

“We don’t have housing to place them in”

Inside Heart for Non-violent Residing is the one low-barrier shelter in Fairbanks, the place winter temperatures can usually dip to 40 under. A low barrier shelter has no circumstances, like sobriety, to enter. Emergency shelters will not be a long-term resolution, however they’re a place to begin for unhoused folks.

Kara Carlson, IAC’s interim director, stated she has housing vouchers out there and a surplus of rental help {dollars} to maneuver folks from shelter to impartial dwelling, however she nonetheless can’t get survivors of home violence into houses.

“Now we have a whole lot of funding out there to assist folks get into housing. What we don’t have is housing to place them in,” she stated.

I feel there could be fewer deaths, and there could be fewer complicated traumas, if the housing want could be higher capable of be met.

– Michelle Hicks, Housing Director for theInterior Alaska Heart for Non-Violent Residing

There are a number of methods to deal with people who find themselves leaving home violence. Shelters are disaster housing and the stays will not be meant to exceed 60 days. Transitional housing is normally low-income housing managed by shelters or nonprofits, and its price is normally shared between the survivor and this system. The following step is both impartial dwelling, normally with the assistance of a housing voucher, or what is known as everlasting supportive housing, for survivors for whom impartial dwelling could also be tough due to a continued risk to their security. It may possibly include safety and a caseworker.

In Fairbanks, Carlson stated, low-income housing has grow to be even scarcer as landlords flip their properties into profitable short-term leases. There are two navy bases in Fairbanks, and he or she stated landlords usually desire navy households to tenants which have housing vouchers.

“Landlords are type of petrified of renting to people who have evictions on their document, and will have a prison document, or the entire above, once they can get a navy individual or an individual with good credit score to pay extra and never give them any issues,” she stated.


One of many manifestations of home violence is monetary abuse. Usually girls leaving abusive relationships haven’t any credit score or spotty credit, or no work or rental historical past in the event that they had been supported and housed by their abusers. They’re usually additionally the first caretakers for his or her kids. Issues like evictions and prison data, which may be the results of home violence conditions, are sometimes unacceptable to landlords.

In response to how powerful it may be to deal with survivors of home violence, IAC manages 20 models of supportive housing. For folks like S., a survivor of violence who lived in numerous emergency shelters for months till she may discover everlasting housing, the choice is very vital.

“Saved my life,” she stated, wanting across the small house.

S. was in a whole lot of hazard when she arrived at a shelter. The Alaska Beacon will not be utilizing her title for security causes. The door of the constructing locks, there may be safety and he or she has a key to her personal door.

The partitions of S.’s house are lined in framed art work. A small bag of biscuits, baked by a neighbor, sat on her kitchen counter, and vegetation grew underneath a particular gentle. A crocheted blanket and stuffed animals high her mattress; on her bookcase had been framed photos of case employees.

Shelters will not be simple locations to dwell, particularly for folks like S. who dwell with medical circumstances. She stated she usually thought of leaving. “I had my backpack strapped to me, able to hitchhike to Anchorage and sofa surf till I may get a job,” she stated. Her case supervisor satisfied her to attend.

“Housing impacts all areas of an individual’s life”

Michelle Hicks, the middle’s housing director, stated managed housing works effectively for survivors, however it’s tough to run and there must be extra of it. “You may most likely double what we at the moment have, and it might nonetheless be full,” she stated.

Hicks stated IAC has been within the housing enterprise for 35 years. Its first constructing, named after Carmen Door, who was shot and killed by her abuser, at the moment homes six households. A number of extra buildings adopted, however Hicks stated she nonetheless has to show housing candidates away.

“We noticed that one of many largest obstacles girls had when fleeing an abuser, and it was notably girls, was protected housing,” she stated from her small, paperwork-filled workplace in a residential space of downtown Fairbanks. The wall above her desk is lined with drawings and sparkly “thanks” playing cards from her tenants.  “I feel there could be fewer deaths, and there could be fewer complicated traumas, if the housing want could be higher capable of be met.”


A puzzle is half completed in the communal part of a supportive housing complex in Fairbanks, Alaska on September 14, 2023. (Photo by Claire Stremple/Alaska Beacon
A puzzle is half accomplished within the communal a part of a supportive housing complicated in Fairbanks, Alaska on September 14, 2023. (Photograph by Claire Stremple/Alaska Beacon

Hicks balances Alaska state regulation, the federal Truthful Housing Act, well being privateness legal guidelines, federal Division of Housing and City Improvement rules and the Violence Towards Girls Act to shelter a tough to deal with inhabitants. She has completely manicured nails and works nights and weekends.

“Housing impacts all areas of an individual’s life,” is printed in purple ink on the underside of her enterprise playing cards. Binders and submitting cupboards filled with paperwork line her partitions. “It’s the only most vital factor,” she stated.

On the shelter’s annual assembly, she cried when she described a tenant who deliberate to maneuver out of managed housing to her personal place. Her voice cracked on the phrases “purchase her own residence.”

Hicks was emotional as a result of she knew what that tenant was up towards: For individuals who have skilled home violence, the obstacles to housing embrace managing their trauma; convincing landlords to take an opportunity when they might lack rental historical past, good funds and a clear document; and a good housing market.

She stated month-to-month leases have proliferated on the town and he or she thinks landlords do it to keep away from housing individuals who use housing vouchers, that are for 12-month leases.

“You’ll be onerous pressed to discover a yr lease anymore on this city,” Hicks stated. “You’re not discriminating if everybody’s lease is month-to-month.”

Private, protected house

A. needed to wait for 2 years to get her housing voucher, however now she lives in considered one of IAC’s supportive housing models together with her sons. Their art work covers the partitions, and a cat darts out and in of the room. She stated it doubtless saved her life.

“I might have gone again to him and been overwhelmed or killed,” she stated.

For security causes, the Alaska Beacon usually doesn’t establish victims of abuse by title, except folks like Butler who’ve been public about their experiences and who agreed to be recognized. The Beacon is figuring out A. by her preliminary together with her settlement.


A resident’s room in supportive housing in Fairbanks, Alaska on September 14, 2023. (Photograph by Claire Stremple/Alaska Beacon)

A. tried to make her marriage work out, regardless of abuse. After leaving and returning to him a number of instances, she stated her household gave up on her.

“They didn’t like him. They didn’t like what he’s doing to me. And I stored going again to him and taking part in the sport, and I wished the household,” she stated. “I can’t remorse the time that we had as a result of I had my son, however I simply want I wouldn’t have stayed so lengthy. It’s by no means too late, nevertheless it’s actually onerous to search out the heart to go away.”

She was homeless for 2 weeks earlier than she sought providers on the shelter. Then, she needed to wait two years for a housing voucher that permit her transfer into one of many residences managed by Hicks. “Right here, I acquired the code and it’s my place. Some other time I lived, it was his place. And he acquired to kick me out,” she stated. “That is mine. No person can kick me out.”

Now A. has a job and may give attention to rebuilding her relationship with herself. “For 12 years I gave him my all, and I truthfully misplaced myself,” she stated. “I didn’t know who I used to be, what I like — I nonetheless don’t,” she stated. Her life was so constructed round pleasing her ex-husband that she stated she continues to be determining what she likes to do, even what she likes to eat.

For A., the perfect a part of the house is safety: There’s a code to get within the constructing and a lock on her door. Now, she stated, she feels “free, however not free” — as a result of her ex is again on the town after a number of years in jail.

“It was fairly good, as a result of I didn’t should look over my shoulder,” she stated. “We’re getting alongside nice now, however I by no means know when it’s gonna flip.”

She stated she is aware of he retains monitor of her nonetheless, though she hears that he has new relationships and that his habits has not modified — “He’s acquired one other woman pregnant,” she stated. “That woman has no clue what she’s getting herself into.”

Constructing for a safer future

From her light-filled workplace with the town of Fairbanks, Butler is working in direction of growing the provision of low-barrier shelter within the Golden Coronary heart Metropolis. She stated larger entry to housing and shelter can stop girls in abusive relationships from returning to their abusers.


Fairbanks City Hall sits in the sun on September 14, 2023. (Photo by Claire Stremple/Alaska Beacon.)
Fairbanks Metropolis Corridor sits within the solar on September 14, 2023. (Photograph by Claire Stremple/Alaska Beacon.)

“It makes a distinction when it’s 40-below,” she stated. “If folks aren’t assured a spot in a shelter, they are going to return to the abuser moderately than keep outdoors.”

She is working to coordinate a housing resolution that connects people who find themselves homeless and hooked on medication, as she as soon as was, to emergency shelter and providers to resolve the big-picture issues of housing and sobriety. By 2026, she desires the town to have a posh for transitioning folks out of homelessness.

And he or she stated different entities are opening up, too. Fairbanks Assist Hyperlink is a brand new in a single day, emergency shelter. It isn’t housing, however a spot to heat up so folks don’t freeze.

However, finally, she stated the town wants housing its residents can afford. She is aware of what it’s wish to have to decide on between housing instability and a violent relationship: “I’ve been there, carried out that, acquired the t-shirt and the monitor marks to show it,” she stated.

Housing was important to her success in ending her dependancy, and stabilizing her household. She stated her children witnessed her abusive relationships, however they’ve additionally witnessed her restoration. She described her husband as a pleasant, first rate man, and he or she stated their relationship is steady — and her daughters see that, too.

“These items are vital to heal the trauma,” she stated. “And never have it move on to the subsequent era.”

This text was produced as a undertaking for the USC Annenberg Heart for Well being Journalism’s 2023 Home Violence Impression Fund.

A full checklist of Alaska shelters and sufferer’s providers suppliers may be discovered right here.