Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Students' project addresses housing aid for survivors of domestic violence

Students' project addresses housing aid for survivors of domestic violence

State agencies and nonprofit organizations are among the many partners seeking assistance from La Follette School students during their capstone course, Workshop in Public Affairs (PA 869). In spring, End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF) asked how the state might improve access to Emergency Assistance grants for survivors of domestic violence.

Five graduating students – Erik Gartland, Nathaniel Haack, Corissa Mosher, Maddie Sychta, Erik Thulien – collected data on the problem, analyzed trends, and identified the areas of highest concern, focusing on understanding the barriers people face in accessing Emergency Assistance, a means-tested, one-time payment available to people experiencing a housing crisis in Wisconsin.

“Using administrative data from DCF, we found large variation among counties in approval rates for EA applicants, suggesting that contractor discretion may play a role in application approval or denial,” the students wrote. “We also found a steadily increasing number of applicants from 2005 to 2014 with a small decrease from 2014 to 2018. Despite a large increase in applicants, the total number of approved EA applications has remained relatively constant, resulting in much higher denial rates.”

The students analyzed Emergency Assistance procedures, domestic violence training for caseworkers, domestic violence screening procedures, and privatization practices along with a literature review and a survey of domestic violence service providers. After this careful analysis and rigorous research, the students developed 35 interventions for reducing barriers to access and then provided eight high-priority recommendations.

Professor Greg Nemet served as the students’ advisor.