AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine State Housing Authority has approved a policy that will give victims of domestic violence and veterans a step up when it comes to securing Section 8 housing vouchers.
Earlier this week, the authority’s board of commissioners signed off on the policy, which will award domestic violence victims and veterans extra points when they apply for Section 8 vouchers. The vouchers help low-income people pay for housing that meets certain requirements.
“Our intent with these additional points is to get the victims into safe situations,” said Maine State Housing Authority spokeswoman Deborah Turcotte.
The Maine State Housing Authority manages nearly 4,000 Section 8 vouchers in towns and cities that don’t have local housing authorities. The agency has a waiting list of 7,000 people, according to Turcotte.
The housing authority already gives preference to people who are homeless, along with the elderly, people with disabilities and families seeking housing assistance. Now veterans and domestic violence victims also will receive preference points on their Section 8 voucher applications.
“One of the reasons why a person who’s being victimized is unable to leave is because they do not have a place to go,” Turcotte said. “We are working on making these [vouchers] available to help people find a safe place to live.”
Turcotte said the Maine State Housing Authority is working to implement the housing preference for domestic violence victims as soon as possible. The housing authority has been working to develop a system to certify that Section 8 applicants are domestic violence victims. The authority is likely to work with caseworkers, rather than rely on the judicial system, to certify applicants are domestic violence victims, Turcotte said.
“What we’re trying to do is to be as safe, confidential and secure as possible so that we don’t put an individual or family in any danger,” Turcotte said.
The preference points for domestic violence victims come as advocates say they’re hearing from more victims. The Bangor Daily News reported in February that the number of victim contacts with advocates at the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence rose about 5 percent between 2010 and 2012, to 132,105 from 125,916.
The number of domestic violence offenses reported to police, meanwhile, has remained relatively steady in the last decade, according to Uniform Crime Reporting data.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and would like to talk with an advocate, call 866-834-4357, TRS 800-787-3224. This free, confidential service is available 24/7 and is accessible from anywhere in Maine.