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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How You Can Help

Yes, you! I was going to post about our volunteer program today; we just did the information and interview sessions for prospective volunteers for our June training, so I’m particularly excited about the volunteer program right now. :) But there happens to be something time-sensitive that we need your help on. The below text is from Senator Cynthia Stone Creem and our legal advocate, Stephanie Decandia.

The Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, Jane Doe, Aids Action Committee, and staff of Greater Boston Legal Services are asking for your support and telephone calls to your State Senator advocating on behalf of survivors of rape, sexual assault, stalking and domestic abuse.  Senator Cynthia Stone Creem is the Lead Sponsor of S. 2274, and the bill is now in the Senate where it is up for discussion on Thursday, 5/21/10. Please contact your Senator today to voice your support of this bill!

Domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, and stalking are endemic in Massachusetts, increasing housing instability and threats to public safety. Effective and appropriate public safety responses to these criminal offenses often produce housing instability for victims and their children. Some victims face retaliatory evictions and discrimination in finding alternative housing as a direct consequence of taking steps to protect themselves and their children. Victims who stay in dangerous situations for fear of the financial consequences of breaking their leases are at risk of further victimization. There are few safe housing options available for victims. Waiting lists for subsidized housing are years long, and emergency homeless shelters are overwhelmed. In many cases, victims of such violence remain with their childre in unsafe situations due to their very real fears of becoming homeless.

Federal law recognizes the need to protect victims from discrimination. The federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) passed in late 2005 provides protections against discrimination in housing admissions, prohibits eviction based on abuse, and permits victims to break their leases and flee for safety. However, VAWA does not apply to all multifamily subsidized housing, private housing, or state-assisted housing. Many states have passed legislation similar to VAWA to protect state or private tenants. Massachusetts has no such law. This bill would provide these needed protections.

What S. 2274 will do if passed:

  • permit victims to raise sexual and domestic violence as a defense to eviction;
  • permit victims to opt out of leases without penalty upon proof of sexual or domestic violence;
  • require landlords to approve lock changes and make lock changes to protect the victim;
  • prevent owners from denying admission based on negative references directly related to the violence;
  • prohibit inquiries into the tenant or prospective tenant’s status as a victim;
  • prohibit a landlord from failing to renew or refusing to rent to a tenant or occupant for having broken a lease or requesting refund of prepaid rent.

S. 2274 will cover all rental housing in Massachusetts and expands protections already in place under VAWA in federal public housing and Section 8 protections.

Your support is critical. Please call your senator today!

Posted by Shira on 05/19 at 09:19 AM


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