As couples and families have quarantined at home, reports of domestic violence in Chicago have surged during the COVID-19 pandemic. Survivors are also facing income and job loss, making it even more difficult to afford to leave an abusive situation.
As part of an ongoing, decades-long partnership, The Allstate Foundation, United Way of Metro Chicago and our community partners have teamed up to financially empower survivors of domestic violence and financial abuse.
96% of domestic violence survivors have experienced financial abuse – when someone restricts another person from making, saving or spending money. It’s one of the main reasons victims are unable to leave an abusive partner or have to return to one. As a result, survivors of domestic violence face serious financial challenges and struggle to find a safe place to live, put food on the table, and to find and hold a job.
Which is why United Way partnered with The Allstate Foundation to connect our community partners – shelters, crisis centers and counseling programs – with its Moving Ahead Curriculum and training. Through this unique partnership, The Allstate Foundation’s support goes beyond a financial investment to bring tangible resources and training materials to local partners, helping them build their capacity to support more people.
South Suburban Family Shelter (SSFS) is one of a dozen United Way partners that uses the Moving Ahead Curriculum to train their counselors and offer financial literacy classes to people who’ve experienced violence. At the same time, they provide rent and utility-free housing so survivors can focus on healing and building their futures.
“Many of our clients have experienced financial abuse and have little knowledge of how to improve that financial situation. It’s often been an ongoing struggle for them and has prevented them from gaining independence,” said Rebecca Thomas, the Housing Programs Manager for South Suburban Family Shelter. “A big part of our case management is gaining financial literacy so that once they do move out, they’re in a position to support themselves and their children and not be in a homelessness situation again.”
“The [Moving Ahead] curriculum is so broad, in a great way. It addresses such a wide range of needs,” Rebecca added. “We’re trying to impart important info that they can carry forward and helps them in the future.”
One of Rebecca’s former clients struggled with homelessness when she entered SSFS’ Sanctuary housing program. After working with Rebecca and the curriculum, she built her credit score to 730 and was able to rent an apartment on her own.
Through the classes, another client Annie* learned how to improve her credit, budget money, open a bank account, and much more. She was also inspired to get her career back on track since she’d lost her job because of the domestic violence she experienced.
“Learning these things made me feel empowered, like I had control of life and my kids’ lives,” Annie wrote. “As a survivor of DV you want nothing more than to have your power back and a sense of control.”
Since she’s graduated from the Sanctuary, her financial situation has greatly improved. “I shifted careers and decided to go back to school, this time as a registered nurse. I applied to a two-year program and got in. I studied hard and stayed in the program.”
Today, Annie’s one nursing class away from becoming an RN and making more income than before!
“It’s easier to fight battles when you’re not alone,” she wrote. “And for that I’ll always be grateful for The Sanctuary.”