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Small Gifts, Stable Homes

How just a little bit of cash now can prevent homelessness later.
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Being the victim of domestic violence is devastating enough in itself, but without timely intervention, it can set off a severe downward spiral.

Leaving an abusive household, or kicking out an abusive partner who pays the rent, too often results in homelessness. But there is a simple way to stop the slide: some quick cash to meet the victims’ most pressing needs.

A research team led by Michigan State University psychologist Cris Sullivan interviewed 50 domestic-violence victims who requested help from the District Alliance for Safe Housing in Washington, D.C. They received an average of $2,079, which they used to pay late rent, put down a security deposit on a new home, or settle the electric bill. Six months later, 47 of them were safely housed, meaning that, in spite of their precarious circumstances, only 6 percent had fallen into homelessness.

The findings suggest “this brief, relatively inexpensive intervention” can pay big rewards. Rather than digging people out of a hole, it’s better to stop them from ever falling in.