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An Evaluation of the Criminal Justice System’s Approaches and Impacts on Domestic Violence Homelessness and Its Victims


This research document analyzes the critical response of the criminal justice system to domestic violence and homelessness. It specifically examines the impact of law enforcement, tribunals and criminal records on the housing stability of domestic violence survivors who end up homeless. It also investigates the systemic biases and obstacles that prevent survivors from gaining access to justice and procuring safe, stable housing to live in.

This exercise utilizes a variety of sources, such as academic articles, government reports and policy documents, to provide a comprehensive overview of the issue. It also examines the effects of mandatory detention policies, domestic violence specialized courts and alternative forms of justice on the housing stability of survivors. In addition, it examines the impact of parole, pretrial detention and sentencing policies on homeless individuals accused of domestic violence. It also concludes that the response of the criminal justice system to domestic violence and homelessness is somewhat inadequate, perpetuating a cycle of violence and housing instability crisis for survivors. Furthermore, It suggests that adopting trauma-informed and survivor-centred strategies to address the unique requirements of homeless survivors is needed.


Domestic violence impacts everyone. Domestic violence survivors often endure financial hardship, emotional torment and housing instability. Homeless survivors of domestic violence suffer systemic biases and barriers that impede them from getting deserved justice and stable homes.

Law enforcement, tribunals and criminal records significantly shape domestic abuse and homelessness survivors’ lives (Cavanagh et al., 2013). These answers have effects on the survivors’ housing stability moving forward. This research addresses this gap by analyzing the criminal justice system’s reaction to domestic abuse and homelessness and the impact of law enforcement, tribunals and criminal records on homeless survivors. This paper examines how mandatory incarceration, domestic violence specialty courts and alternative justice affect survivors of domestic violence. Parole, pretrial custody and sentencing procedures for homeless domestic violence defendants are also examined in the paper.

The criminal justice reaction to domestic abuse and homelessness is below what is needed, and consequently, a continuing cycle of violence and housing instability for survivors is created. The report also highlights systemic prejudices that prevent survivors from accessing justice and safe, stable housing. Cultural and societal attitudes regarding domestic abuse survivors and structural disparities that hinder them from accessing resources cause these prejudices and hurdles are also reviewed to provide measures which should prioritize survivor safety and recognize systemic hurdles to justice and housing stability. It shows the urgent need for structural change to ensure domestic violence survivors have access to justice and safe, stable housing by studying the effects of law enforcement, tribunals, and criminal records on the survivors of domestic violence.

Children and teenagers who are exposed to domestic abuse situations and are consequently homeless encounter numerous problems, including emotional trauma, educational disruptions and social isolation (Hester, 2017). Furthermore, the criminal justice system’s response to domestic violence and homelessness can compound these issues, viewing them and processing them in a general regard trapping children and teens in a cycle of poverty and instability emanating from the justice system’s verdicts on such issues.

Future research should look into the impact of domestic violence and homelessness on children and teens, as well as how the criminal justice system might meet their specific needs so as to safeguard them and their future. Due to this, the research paper shall also evaluate the importance of trauma-informed and survivor-centred approaches as extensions of already existing approaches, as discussed by Baker et al. (2010), so as to meet the needs of individuals who have been victims of domestic abuse and are homeless.

Historical Relevance and Social Welfare Policies.

When social welfare policies were first introduced to address these issues in the early 20th century, domestic violence and homelessness in the United States gained major significance and attention. However, the number of domestic violence survivors who become homeless continued to be alarmingly on the rise despite the implementation of numerous social welfare policies over the years.

To help people and families who are struggling with poverty, homelessness and other forms of social disadvantage, social welfare policies are created. They give survivors access to necessities like housing, food and medical care. These policies are frequently viewed as a vital tool in addressing the underlying causes of domestic violence and homelessness.

Social welfare policies, however, can also have complex interactions with domestic violence cases, particularly for survivors who end up homeless. Several factors, such as financial instability, a lack of accessible housing facilities and domestic violence instances frequently lead to homelessness. When victims of domestic violence leave their violent partners or homes and can no longer access stable housing, they sometimes end up homeless.

Social welfare policies historically have not always been created with the unique requirements of domestic violence survivors in mind. For instance, many programs that help the homeless, like emergency shelters and transitional housing programs, have strict eligibility requirements that often exclude a lot of victims of domestic violence who do not meet them.

Furthermore, many social welfare policies have come under fire for maintaining deep prejudices and impediments that deny other survivors access to crucial resources. For example, laws requiring identification documents or income verification may disproportionately affect victims of domestic abuse who may have had to flee their homes without these documents or are in need of financial assistance.

Despite these obstacles, significant work has been done to create social welfare policies that are more sensitive to the particular needs of victims of domestic violence who become homeless. Some programs now place a higher priority on the safety and well-being of survivors by offering services that are trauma-informed, centred on survivors and aware of the complex interactions that exist between domestic violence and homelessness cases. Additionally, there has been an increased understanding of how crucial it is for social welfare organizations to work with other sectors, like the Criminal Justice System, to address the underlying causes of domestic violence and homelessness. Together, these organizations can offer survivors more comprehensive support and keep them from slipping through the system.

To ensure that social welfare policies are responsive to the needs of domestic violence survivors who become homeless, more work is to be done despite these efforts. Policymakers should keep pushing for laws that put survivor safety and well-being first and work to remove the systemic bias and barriers that keep survivors from getting the help they desperately need. Social welfare policies in combating domestic violence and homelessness further emphasize the crucial functions these policies play in assisting survivors.

Social Disadvantage Welfare Policies

These are policies and programs created to manage the social and economic problems experienced by underprivileged members of the population, for example, low-income families, people living with disabilities and the homeless. These policies are intended to provide assistance and resources to the disadvantaged in order to assist them in overcoming the hurdles and challenges that block them from attaining economic and social stability and societal mobility requirements. Some of the most notable policies are interpreted and elaborated further and explained below.

Violence Against Women Act (1994)

The 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has been repeatedly revised and reauthorized. The statute addresses violence against women and provides services and support for domestic abuse, sexual assault and stalking victims. It provides survivors with emergency shelter, housing aid, legal services and counselling while strengthening the law enforcement approach and the justice system to respond to these crimes.

VAWA funds several social and public utility institutions, this includes law enforcement agencies, so as to strengthen their response to these crimes and victim care providers to provide counselling, emergency shelter and legal advocacy. It also protects victims; VAWA protects victims by issuing protective and restraining orders. These orders might bar the abuser from contacting the victim or visiting their home or office and require them to give up their firearms. It also creates domestic violence-specific judicial programs. Domestic Violence Courts help survivors by providing therapy, housing and job training. VAWA also changed how law enforcement and the court system approached domestic abuse before domestic abuse was considered a family matter. It has changed this view and made domestic abuse a serious felony that demands a coordinated response from law enforcement, victim assistance providers and the court system.

VAWA has increased domestic violence reports to law enforcement and the number of abusers arrested and convicted. VAWA has also helped many survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking recover from their trauma. It has helped combat domestic abuse, sexual assault and stalking. VAWA’s funding, victim protection and specialized court programs have improved the justice system’s reaction to these crimes and aided survivors. It has advanced the fight against violence against women and domestic violence.

The Foster Care System.

The foster care system temporarily houses children and teens afflicted by domestic abuse and homelessness. Domestic abuse and homelessness affect many foster children. Foster care strives to end the cycle of violence and homelessness by providing a secure and safe home. The foster care system has been criticized for failing to solve domestic abuse and homelessness, which can lead to children returning to these toxic circumstances. This approach may be ineffective and unsafe due to cases of foster care abuse and neglect. The foster care system served as a breeding ground for gangs and drug use, especially among long-term residents. Foster children are more likely to have mental health concerns, substance misuse and misbehaviour, according to Halfon et al. (2015). Instability, lack of support and family separation can worsen these disorders.

Several foster care policies offer mentoring, treatment, and support to help foster adolescents move into adulthood. The 2008 Fostering Links to Success and Promoting Adoptions Act is an example. This policy supported extended foster care, education and health care for foster adolescents to improve their well-being. The 2018 Family First Prevention Services Act is another. This approach prioritized family preservation and prevention over foster care placement to strengthen the system. It funds evidence-based programs to retain children and youth in family-like environments rather than institutions. The foster care system can provide a temporary home for children and teens afflicted by domestic abuse and homelessness, but it also confronts obstacles and criticism for not addressing the core reasons. The foster care system must provide a safe and caring environment for children and teens while also meeting their long-term needs and helping them succeed as adults.

McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

In 1987, Congress passed the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. A federal statute whose overarching goal is to solve the problem of homelessness in the United States. Both the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 served as subsequent reauthorizations of the original Act (ESSA). The McKinney-Vento Act establishes guidelines for finding and helping homeless people, especially victims of domestic violence. To ensure that homeless children and youth have access to education as well as transportation, food and other necessities, the Act mandates that each state appoint a State Coordinator for Homeless Education. Children and youth who are homeless have the right to enroll in a school immediately under the Act regardless of whether or not they have the paperwork to do so, such as proof of domicile or immunization records, according to McCowan (2010), education is enshrined in basic human rights. It also mandates that schools offer homeless students who live outside the school attendance area with transportation to and from school.

McKinney-Vento Act provisions address the needs of homeless adults, particularly those who have experienced domestic abuse, in addition to providing aid to homeless children. Emergency shelters, transitional housing and permanent supportive housing for the homeless are all mandated by the Act. Homeless people, especially those who have escaped domestic violence, can find refuge in these organizations which intend to provide them with a secure and stable place to live. The Act states that local educational institutions coordinate with housing authorities, social services and other groups to pinpoint the homeless individuals and families and provide them with the help they need. The aim is to help homeless people acquire permanent housing and the stability they need to become financially and socially independent.

The Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act (2009).

The Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act of 2009 is another federal policy designed to prevent and terminate homelessness in the United States. This policy gave funds and support for a range of initiatives that serve to address the issue of homeless individuals and families, including domestic violence survivors.

The Act amended the McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Act, which was originally implemented in 1987. The Act introduced several new solutions to addressing homelessness, including the Rapid Re-Housing program, which is intended to rapidly move homeless individuals and families into permanent housing. The Homeless Prevention program is an initiative which gives financial assistance and supportive services to individuals and families at risk of becoming homeless. The Act has significantly increased funding for emergency shelters and transitional housing programs as well as additional services such as job training, education and healthcare facilitation.

It recognizes that domestic violence is a primary cause of homelessness for women and their children. To address this issue, the Act requires that 20% of the funding for homeless assistance programs be used to serve survivors of domestic violence. This funding can be used to provide emergency shelter and transitional housing as well as supportive services such as counselling, employment training and healthcare.

The HEARTH Act has been instrumental in addressing the contemporary issues emanating from domestic violence, specifically homelessness. By prioritizing the needs of domestic violence survivors, the Act has helped to ensure that they have access to the resources and support they need to rebuild their lives and progress toward stable housing. The Rapid Re-Housing program, in particular, has been effective in assisting survivors to rapidly find and secure permanent housing, which is critical for their safety and well-being.

However, despite the progress made by the HEARTH Act, there are still significant challenges in addressing the intersection of domestic violence and homelessness. One challenge is the lack of affordable housing options, which can make it difficult for survivors to locate and maintain stable housing. Many in need encounter hurdles in accessing housing and other resources. Discrimination based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity is among these barriers. Another challenge is the need for more trauma-informed services that are tailored to the unique requirements of domestic violence survivors; that is, services that address the complex trauma that survivors may experience as a result of their experiences with violence as well as the barriers they may face in accessing services due to fear of retaliation or lack of trust in service providers.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), originally known as the Food Stamp Program, is a federal aid program that helps low-income families and individuals in the United States to purchase and acquire food. The program does this through the issuance of electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards that can be used at authorized stores to purchase pre-determined foods. The purpose is to guarantee that all Americans have access to food, regardless of their financial or social situation.

SNAP is a vital strategy that helps address the issue of domestic violence and homelessness in its own unique way. Domestic violence survivors typically deal with financial instability making it very difficult to acquire basic essentials like food. This policy provides a safety net for these individuals by ensuring that they have access to food that can preserve their health and well-being and have the energy to do their daily activities.

In addition to providing food assistance, it also provides programs that are specifically targeted homeless individuals who are eligible for faster benefits, which means that they can receive benefits within seven days of making an application. This is a vital service for homeless survivors who may not have access to regular meals. Furthermore, it also permits survivors of domestic violence to apply for benefits independently from their abusers. This is vital as many survivors may be unwilling to apply for aid due to fear of further abuse. By permitting separate applications, the policy provides a safe and discreet way for survivors to get the assistance they need.

The initiative also provides other benefits that might help survivors achieve economic security and break the cycle of poverty. For example, education and training programs can help individuals acquire work skills and find employment. Employment and Training (E&T) programs are available to help low-income persons improve their work prospects and achieve a sustainable income. This is very crucial for domestic abuse survivors who may have been unemployed for a long time or have few employment skills.

The Affordable Care Act.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, is a far-reaching healthcare reform law that President Barack Obama signed into law in 2010. The policy intended to increase access to affordable health insurance and improve healthcare quality in the United States. It is a landmark law that has had a significant impact on the country’s healthcare system. The policy addresses the issue of homelessness and healthcare in part by enabling Medicaid access. The law allows states to expand Medicaid coverage to people with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level, which includes a large number of the homeless people demographic.

It requires that insurance companies cover certain essential health benefits, such as mental health and substance abuse treatment which are mostly needed by homeless people. This has increased access to these services for homeless people who may be dealing with addiction or mental health issues. It also contains provisions aimed at improving cooperation between healthcare providers and social service institutions in order to address homelessness. It encourages the establishment of health homes which are integrated care models that combine medical, behavioural health and social services to provide comprehensive care to people with complex needs, including those who are homeless.

In order to address the growing interconnections between homelessness, drug use and crime, the Act includes substance abuse treatment and prevention measures. The law requires insurance companies to cover substance abuse treatment as an essential health package, and it funds programs aimed at preventing and treating substance abuse victims.

The Act also established the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Innovation Center, which is tasked with testing new payment and service delivery methods in order to improve healthcare quality and reduce costs. The Accountable Health Communities model is one of those being tested; it aims to address the social determinants of health, such as housing insecurity and food insecurity, which contribute to poor health. The Affordable Care Act has made a significant impact in improving access to healthcare for homeless people and addressing the complex issues that contribute to homelessness. The policy’s emphasis on substance abuse treatment and prevention has been vital in addressing the increasing interconnections between homelessness, drug use and crime. It has been a critical policy in addressing the healthcare needs of homeless people as well as the complex issues that contribute to homelessness.

Critical Debate

Many policies attempt to address domestic violence and homelessness, which is a complex and serious issue. In this brief debate, we will evaluate the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act of 2009, McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, foster care system and Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) respectively.

The Affordable Care Act has generally improved healthcare access for the homeless. Medicaid expansion allows more homeless people to get health care which they could not otherwise. Since homeless people have high rates of substance addictions and mental illness problems, the policy includes mental health and substance abuse treatment as the major portions of its package. However, The Act’s impact on homelessness and domestic violence is limited because it focuses on healthcare access and affordability rather than the root causes of domestic violence and homelessness. SNAP has reduced food insecurity among the homeless. It helps homeless people avoid malnutrition which is a major problem Healthwise. Through this intervention, the homeless can temporarily alleviate hunger, but it does not address the root causes of food insecurity which are, by most parameters’ homelessness and poverty.

The 2009 HEARTH Act funded homeless shelters and transitional housing programs to end homelessness as its main approach. Through its far-reaching amendments, The Act improved homeless access to healthcare and employment assistance and acknowledged the key and vital roles counselling plays between spouses and partners, as noted by Modi et al. (2014). The HEARTH Act, however, has been criticized for failing to address the root causes of homelessness and not providing enough resources for the homeless it accommodated. Also, the 1987 McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act improved education access and quality for homeless children. The Act encourages local school districts to identify, support and transport homeless students. The Act, over time, has been criticized for not providing enough resources to help homeless families find stable housing, which is essential for homeless children’s well-being.

Abused and neglected children are placed in foster care systems. Many children, including those who have been through abuse, have found safety in foster care homes. On its shortcomings, it has been criticized for failing to support children who are out, leaving many homeless and vulnerable to abuse and exploitation (Atkinson, 2018). It has also been in the spotlight as a breeding ground for gang culture and drug use due to irresponsible foster caregivers

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has extensively rescued homeless women from domestic violence and other serious domestic situations. It funds domestic violence shelters, support services and legal aid, which is much required and, at the same time, out of reach for some of these women. The Act, however, has been criticized for not addressing poverty at home (Kaur and Garg, 2018), which is among the root causes of instances of domestic violence.

Micro, Mezzo and Macro Practices Implications for a Social Work Professional Identity.

Therapy, counselling and case management are micro-practices. Micro-practicing social workers help clients attain their goals and improve their well-being. This level of practice values client inters relationships and immediate necessities such as food, housing and healthcare. Some of the implications of this practice are that it is a client-centred approach; Micro practitioners must personalize their interventions to the individual’s requirements. They must also respect autonomy, self-determination and participation in the decision-making of their clients. Micro practitioners must always protect client confidentiality; they must not divulge client personal information without authorization unless required by authorities. Micro practitioners must practice ethically; they must recognize ethical issues and handle them accordingly.

Mezzo practice involves working with families, institutions or designated areas. Mezzo-practice social work may better bigger systems or aspects so as to increase individual well-being. Addressing structural issues and promoting social change often requires collaboration with other experts and stakeholders. Some of the major implications in this type of practice are; Mezzo practitioners must adopt a systems view, which means they must consider the numerous components that comprise the group or organization and how they interact with one another. They must also take into account the larger community context and how it affects the group or organization. Collaboration, in order to achieve their objectives, mezzo practitioners must work with other professions and stakeholders from other sectors and those from their own. They must form alliances, pool resources, and cooperate toward a common objective. Advocacy is another; Mezzo practitioners must be advocates for their clients as well as the people or organizations with which they collaborate or represent. They must identify and address systemic hurdles while also promoting social justice.

The macro practice involves lobbying for policy shifts that affect a certain community or promoting social justice. Macro social workers try to change the social, economic and political structures and outlooks that cause social problems. Research, policy analysis and advocacy with legislators, community groups and other stakeholders are common at this level. In this level of practice, some of the implications include; Social justice; Macro practitioners must be passionate about social justice. They must identify and solve underlying inequalities in order to build a more just and equitable society.

Advocacy is also highlighted in this practice; Macro practitioners must be social change, advocates and lobbyists. They must apply their knowledge and talents to shape policy and create social change. Macro practitioners must be capable leaders who can take charge. They must be excellent communicators, collaborators and decision-makers. They should be able to inspire and motivate people to work together to achieve a common objective.


Combating domestic violence and homelessness needs different policies and implementations at several levels. Policies like The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Affordable Care Act (ACA) also known as Obamacare, The Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act (HEARTH), McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, Foster Care, and Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) mitigates domestic violence and homelessness. These programs have reduced homelessness and domestic violence by tackling social and economic factors at the grassroots. Future legislation must address the root causes of domestic violence and homelessness extensively.

These policies should adequately address poverty, lack of affordable housing, mental health concerns, substance addiction and unemployment, which contribute to these socioeconomic problems, which then lead to violence in domestic settings. Instead of merely helping homeless people, policymakers should prevent domestic violence and homelessness (Azzopardi and McNeill, 2016). Social professionals are crucial to domestic violence and homelessness policymaking. Social workers must lobby for laws that highlight the marginalized and vulnerable demographics. Social workers can work at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels to make society more just, egalitarian and inclusive for all, especially for those at risk of domestic abuse and homelessness.

Social workers’ micro practice impacts domestic violence and homelessness victims. For tailored help, they need crisis intervention, trauma-informed care and empathy. Mezzo practice impacts domestic violence and homeless families and communities in broader ways. Social workers at this level must cooperate with community partners to provide housing (Azzopardi and McNeill, 2016), counselling and legal aid, which is very hard to get as a homeless individual.

Influencing policies, legislation and institutions to solve domestic violence and homelessness is macro practice. To ensure access to resources and services that benefit families and communities, social workers at this level must fight for policy reforms and social justice on a much broader platform.

Affordable housing, comprehensive services, mental health and substance abuse treatment, job training and child care must be prioritized in policy-oriented solutions to domestic violence homelessness. To help domestic abuse and homelessness victims, programs like the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and McKinney-Vento should be expanded and funded extensively. Social workers should collaborate with community partners and stakeholders to develop creative domestic violence and homelessness prevention methods. Community-based initiatives, public education campaigns and awareness raising can prevent and address domestic violence and homelessness.

Domestic violence and homelessness are serious social issues that require multiple solutions. Social workers at all levels must collaborate to provide individualized care, promote community well-being, and push for policy changes that address these social issues.


Azzopardi, C., & McNeill, T. (2016). From cultural competence to cultural consciousness: Transitioning to a critical approach to working across differences in social work. Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work25(4), 282–299.

Atkinson, M. (2018). Aging out of foster care: Towards a universal safety net for former foster care youth. Harv. CR-CLL Rev., pp. 43, 183.

Baker, C. K., Billhardt, K. A., Warren, J., Rollins, C., & Glass, N. E. (2010). Domestic violence, housing instability, and homelessness: A review of housing policies and program practices for meeting the needs of survivors. Aggression and violent behaviour, 15(6), 430-439.

Cavanagh, K., Humphreys, C., & Laing, L. (2013). Social work and domestic violence: Developing critical and reflective practice. Social Work and Domestic Violence, pp. 1–184.

Hester, M. (2017). Making an impact: Children and domestic violence: A reader.

Halfon, N., Mendonca, A., & Berkowitz, G. (2015). Health status of children in foster care: The experience of the Center for the Vulnerable Child. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 149(4), 386-392.

Kaur, R., & Garg, S. (2018). Addressing domestic violence against women: An unfinished agenda. Indian Journal of community medicine: official publication of Indian Association of Preventive & Social Medicine33(2), 73.

McCowan, T. (2010). Reframing the universal right to education. Comparative Education, 46(4), 509–525.

Modi, M. N., Palmer, S., & Armstrong, A. (2014). The role of Violence Against Women Act in addressing intimate partner violence: A public health issue. Journal of Women’s health23(3), 253–259.


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