Posted by Lindsey Daley
Last spring, I learned that my client, Eva*, a domestic abuse survivor
who had fled her husband, was having trouble accessing services to help her and her young children while their family was in crisis. Eva shared that she had reached out to the Department of Transitional Assistance
(DTA) to apply for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
, formerly known as food stamps) benefits but was having challenges getting approved. She was hoping that with help, she could stabilize her family’s situation while she tried to ensure their safety and get back on her feet.
DTA requires applicants to provide documentation to prove they are eligible for benefits but Eva’s circumstances made it difficult for her to provide the information DTA needed. DTA recognizes that this is often the case for domestic abuse survivors and has a team of specially trained domestic violence specialists to help clients navigate the process in a manner that doesn’t jeopardize their safety.
Eva was unaware of this resource and had not been referred to such a specialist. When I tried to reach out on her behalf, I was unable to reach a specialist directly. I found this disconcerting. The support and assistance from a domestic violence specialist is only beneficial if clients are aware of it and can access it.
Fortunately, because I am a long standing member of the Boston SNAP Coalition and the Boston DTA Advisory Board, outlets for government agencies and community stakeholders to work together to improve services, I was able to bring awareness to the barriers victims of domestic violence faced.
Working with a team of advocates from Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Greater Boston Legal Services, and others, we contacted DTA officials, including the new DTA Commissioner, to suggest ways that DTA could improve access for domestic abuse clients. In response, DTA quickly implemented short-term changes to address some of the immediate concerns. In September, a new protocol for clients to reach their domestic violence specialists was announced. Ongoing discussions between DTA and advocates continue to identify additional policy transformations needed to ensure clients who are victims of domestic violence can access the assistance they need.
*Name changed to protect privacy.
Lindsey Daley is the Senior SNAP/Benefits Advocate in Bet Tzedek Legal Services. Lindsey is dedicated to helping low-income individuals and families achieve stability through accessing and maximizing safety net benefits and community resources. Lindsey serves on the Boston SNAP Coalition, an anti-hunger advocacy group, and is a member of the Boston Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) Advisory Board where she helps improve services for the vulnerable population DTA serves. Prior to joining JF&CS, Lindsey graduated from UMass Lowell and worked in human services.