Abuse Survivor Wins Relocation Battle With Dallas Housing Authority

A Dallas woman who survived years of domestic abuse is one step closer to living in a safe place.

Cheria Thomas received a portable Section 8 voucher from the Dallas Housing Authority Wednesday.

She had spent the last several months fighting desperately with the public housing agency for an emergency transfer.

The voucher is her ticket out of Dallas and away from her ex-boyfriend. 

He got out of prison last week and has a history of finding and abusing Thomas, even after she's changed addresses.

The pair met in 2008 and had a child several years later. The abuse started in late 2011 when Thomas said her ex battled drug addiction.

"My biggest fear is that he is going to kill me and my son. He doesn't care about the police. He doesn't care about rules. I feel like he will break them all to get back at me," she said, just days before his release.

DHA's decision is a change of heart. It comes after Thomas accused the agency of violating her rights to safe housing under the federal Violence Against Women Act.

Thomas rejected DHA's initial relocation offer because it was not far enough from where she was currently living.

She said the agency refused to find her another place to live, and even rejected her offers to move to other DHA properties outside Dallas.

"They moved me close to the same area as I was before. They told me I should be grateful I have somewhere to stay and if I wanted to not take the apartment they could end my housing assistance," she said. "It's like you don't matter."

After securing legal representation through the Texas Legal Services Center Thomas was able to get the voucher.

It's a small victory, but her attorney, Jennifer Bowman, said the ordeal raises concerns over the federal law.

Under the current law victims like Thomas, who are in immediate danger, have little no recourse if a public housing agency violates the act.

"The Violence Against Women Act really doesn't give us a cause of action. In other words, we can't sue DHA. It also doesn't give us full recourse. We do have the ability to complain to HUD.  I believe that is our only option. Again, we don't have that kind of time. I don't know any survivor of domestic violence who has that kind of time."

Bowman is concerned about other women in public housing who are facing a similar situation.

"There's no way that I see it that she's the only person dealing with this," Bowman said. "I think it's forcing them to stay, oddly enough, in danger. These women clearly do not have an alternative, they are literally in housing because they can't afford any other housing units."

In response to Thomas' accusations, DHA released the following statement:

"The Dallas Housing Authority takes the safety of all our residents very seriously, including those families who may be facing challenges associated with domestic violence. We respect the confidentiality of our families and we do not publish their confidential information in any public domain. While we are unable to share confidential information about our residents, we are committed to ensuring all our families’ housing needs are met."

Thomas is now on the hunt to find a landlord that will accept her voucher. Despite her fears she believes it was important to speak out.

"I know I'm not the only woman or man going through this," she said. "Being a voice of the voiceless will get people to realize they have options."

ONLINE: Domestic Violence Resources

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