Survive2Thrive Foundation's Courtney Santana Finds Housing for Survivors of Domestic Violence

Courtney Santana (front left) and the Survive2Thrive team (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Courtney Santana's Survive2Thrive Foundation has worked to place survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault into semipermanent or permanent housing since 2013. However, when domestic violence shelters were forced to limit their capacity earlier this spring due to COVID-19 precautions – and as the crisis compounded existing forces that often enable domestic violence – Santana hit the ground running to help survivors who either couldn't get into a shelter or wanted to avoid living in a communal environment. The nonprofit also serves clients referred to them by law enforcement agencies.

Through working with the Austin Hotel and Lodging Association, Survive2Thrive has dramatically grown the number of hotels to house its clients, as well as expanded the nonprofit's scope of services through partnering with Texas Advocacy Project, which provides free legal services to survivors. Because of Survive2Thrive's efforts, Williamson County's only domestic violence shelter, Hope Alliance, was able to reduce its waitlist to zero.

Waitlists at domestic violence shelters are a near-constant obstacle for survivors, and Santana's nonprofit is working to create a solution from the outside in. It's a solution that envisions cross-collaboration among law enforcement agencies, shelters, social services, and the hotel lodging industry. Adequate shelter capacity will persist long after the pandemic, and Survive2Thrive's work represents an approach to housing survivors that more entities – including City Council – are beginning to explore.

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Courtney Santana, 20 in 2020, Survive2Thrive Foundation, Texas Advocacy Project, Austin Hotel and Lodging Association, domestic violence shelters

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