Two U.S. House members — a Maine Republican and a Texas Democrat — are teaming up to push a new measure that would make it easier for some women in rural areas who are victims of domestic violence to access safe housing.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who represents Maine’s 2nd District, said adding the rural development housing voucher program to approved housing options under the 1994 Violence Against Women Act is a crucial step toward helping victims of domestic violence avoid homelessness.

In a prepared statement, Poliquin called the proposal a “sensible fix” to ensure that protections “for victims in most public housing programs extend to those in this rural housing program that serves our rural communities, especially in states like Maine.”

Existing law protects victims and those threatened with domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking from experiencing discrimination from some housing providers related to the abuse.

It doesn’t encompass those who are simply renting a residence in a normal market situation, but does apply for people who are in public housing, housing for the disabled and a whole host of programs provided by the federal government.

It is not clear why rural development housing vouchers were left out of the law, but it appears to have been simply an oversight.


That leaves some rural women in an “extremely vulnerable” position, according to information from Poliquin’s office.

Poliquin and U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas, said their bill “is designed to fill the gap in housing support for rural victims.”

Among the alternatives that are covered by the law are all of the other rural housing programs, the Department of Housing and Urban Development rental assistance programs and the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program.

Poliquin said that “abuse and violence does not discriminate between those in rural and urban settings, and it’s important that victims can access the same protections and support no matter where they live.”

The bill Poliquin and Gonzalez are pushing recognizes that “access to safe and affordable housing is frequently a determining factor in whether victims of domestic violence are able to leave abusive circumstances,” the Texas congressman said.

“For those victims that reside in rural areas, the options are currently few and far between,” Gonzalez said.


Experts say about half of homeless women cite domestic violence as the immediate cause of their homelessness — and nearly every homeless woman has experienced serious physical or sexual violence at some point.

Poliquin’s office said that 25 percent or more of women in rural areas lives at least 40 miles from from programs that can provide direct assistance for those who are victims of domestic violence.

The proposal is under consideration by the House Financial Services Committee.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin (File photo)

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