June 12, 2018

Mayor Emanuel Introduces Plan To Significantly Expand Shelter Beds And Related Services For Victims Of Domestic Violence

A New Two Percent Homeshare Surcharge Would Help Increase the Availability of Domestic Violence Shelter Beds Citywide by Fifty Percent.
Mayor's Press Office    312.744.3334

Mayor Rahm Emanuel today at WINGS Metro announced a new plan to expand the City’s shelter bed capacity for victims of domestic violence by fifty percent. Through a proposed two percent homeshare surcharge, Chicago will increase housing options for victims of domestic violence while helping increase access to critical resources.

“This expansion will provide a safe option for people who are currently experiencing or have experienced domestic violence,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Finding a place to sleep at night can become a real challenge for domestic violence survivors, and by increasing the City’s bed capacity we are providing more supportive services to this vulnerable population.”

The new surcharge is expected to generate an additional $1.3 million in annual revenue by collecting a two percent surcharge on the gross rental or leasing charge of any shared-housing unit or vacation rental through both existing and new providers. This new, dedicated revenue source will allow the City to increase the number of beds or temporary housing for victims of domestic violence, while also supporting long-term services and outreach directed towards the needs of domestic violence victims.

“This new ordinance will benefit victims of domestic violence for years to come,” said Lisa Morrison Butler, DFSS Commissioner. “By increasing our capacity to provide a supportive environment for residents affected by domestic violence, we as a city will further our goal of preventing anyone from experiencing tragedy at the hands of an abusive individual.”

Currently, through the Department of Family and Support Services, the City operates 140 shelter beds for domestic violence victims and funds approximately 30 programs that provide direct services to Chicago victims of domestic violence. These services include supportive counseling, safety planning, explanation of victim rights under the Illinois Domestic Violence Act, information on how to obtain an Order of Protection, legal advocacy, legal services, and supervised visitation and safe exchange services.

"Given the personal nature of most domestic violence incidents, without somewhere to turn for help and for shelter, many victims suffer in silence," said Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson. "These added resources made possible by Mayor Emanuel will allow city agencies to come together in one coordinated public safety effort to not only begin the healing process for victims, but to hold offenders in these cases accountable."

Chicago was among the first municipalities to leverage revenue for homeshare accommodations through the imposition of a four percent surcharge on homeshare units in July 2016. Revenue generated from the surcharge support services for homeless families and the chronic homeless along with funding homeshare regulatory efforts by the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. During the first year of collection (July 2016 through June 2017), the City collected approximately $3.0 million in homeshare surcharge revenue, and from July 2017 through April 2018, the City estimates it has collected $2.7 million from surcharge.

Through the Families in Transition program, a joint initiative with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless to address homelessness impacting families in the most at-risk communities, the City has been able to connect 100 homeless families and over 500 individual family members in high crime communities with permanent housing. The revenue also provides wrap-around supportive services for more than 100 chronically homeless individuals.

Throughout his career, Mayor Emanuel has long advocated for support of domestic violence victims and their families.

In 2016, the Mayor worked with WINGS Metro to open the first domestic violence shelter built in the city in more than a decade. The Apna Ghar Domestic Violence Shelter quickly followed in 2017, and today specializes in outreach and advocacy on behalf of all immigrant communities. The City of Chicago provided the initial funds, a $1.8 million penalty it had collected, to begin building WINGS Metro. Since it opened on February 14, 2016, WINGS Metro has provided 30,000 nights of shelter for adults and children touched by domestic violence. 

Last year, the Mayor and Alderman Matthew O’Shea introduced another ordinance that reaffirmed the City’s commitment to protecting its employees who are survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. The ordinance provides up to one month of paid leave for City employees who qualify for the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act (“VESSA”). 

Since taking office, Mayor Emanuel implemented a number of initiatives to support domestic violence victims and convened several law enforcement agencies, local government offices, prosecutors, and community service groups to align forces to break the cycle of domestic violence. To date, thousands of police officers across the City completed an advanced training led by a citywide domestic violence prevention task force, including the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network, to both improve support provided to victims in response to reports of domestic violence and to increase prosecution rates for these crimes.

Mayor Emanuel and then-Senator Joseph Biden worked together to craft the Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”) in 1994. The landmark federal legislation developed a comprehensive approach to improve the criminal justice response to violence against women. The VAWA provides access to services victims and their families need.

The Mayor encourages every Chicagoan to play a role in actively seeking to end domestic abuse of all types across the city. To report domestic abuse, Chicagoans should call 9-1-1. For more information and support, anyone can call or text the domestic violence hotline 24/7 at 877.863.6338.

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