Across the United States, American Indian and Alaska Native women are often forced to flee their homes and homelands to escape violence, due to the cross-jurisdictional maze of federal law and policies that leave them unprotected and vulnerable. The lack of sufficient funding for federally recognized tribes to support culturally grounded safe housing and shelter, adequate law enforcement, medical services, intervention programs for abusive partners are just some examples of the consequences of a failed federal system.
Safe housing and shelter are integral to women’s safety, yet women also need access to a full range of supportive services as they begin their healing journey after experiencing violence. Currently, there are only 55 Native-centered domestic violence shelters for 574 Indian tribes in the U.S. The low number of Native shelters is connected to the lack of adequate federal funding. It is also connected to the lack of tribal infrastructure, including funding for staff, to apply for grant funds to create and operate a shelter.
Funding under the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA), which provides flexibility to address the needs of women and their children, has been the anchor for tribal shelter programs for decades. In Indian Country, safe housing and shelter needs are especially unique, varying by tribe, geography, and each individual Native woman’s healing journey and needs. Tribes and grassroots advocates have pushed for key amendments, namely to increase FVPSA funding for tribal shelter services, to be included in the next FVPSA reauthorization.