My name is Hope. I am survivor of domestic violence. To protect myself, I fled from my husband and changed my name and social security number. I have sole custody of two children from this abusive relationship. I never changed my children's names or social security numbers because the courts require notifying both parents of the change and I did not want my abuser to be able to track us down.
Fleeing has kept us alive but has proven to be more of a struggle than I could have ever anticipated.
Recently, my children and I found what seemed to be a family-friendly apartment complex and applied to rent an apartment there. After seeing an apartment, we loved everything about it — especially the price and size. After passing all the necessary credit checks I was given forms to release the social security numbers of my children.
This instantly shook me. I was confused and scared. I explained to the office assistant that doing so would put myself and my children in danger.
The apartment complex, which is run by Concord Management, refused to rent to me unless I handed over the full social security numbers of my children. I discovered that not only did they require them for their "auditing purposes," but they would want to run the numbers as well, which would alert my abuser to our current whereabouts. I pleaded with the apartment managers and offered to provide proof of our situation and the very real danger we were in. I even offered to release the last four digits of my children's social security numbers.
After all of this fear, shame and embarrassment, they denied me. Telling me that if I could not furnish the children's full social security numbers they would not rent to me. We didn't know where we would live if they wouldn't rent to us. The fear of being homeless almost convinced me of giving them the social security numbers. I did not.
I felt so helpless, afraid and shameful. I felt less than. To refuse survivors, such as my children and myself, not only brought back feelings of being victimized, it literally victimized us again. We were put in a situation where we had to choose between being safe and having housing. It made living with what we knew, even if it is abusive, seem preferable to a world where there is too little understanding.
The threat of being denied housing, the very bare necessity for survival, can make domestic violence survivors stay in their abusive situation or force them to give up their personal information, putting them at risk.
To be denied a HOME, a safe haven, simply because of a policy of collecting children's social security numbers for whatever reason is dangerous, unethical, and in my opinion discriminatory to survivors and their families
I felt voiceless. I felt powerless. I was afraid. All because I fled domestic violence, and had to keep my children safe from our abuser.
Together with the American Civil Liberties Union Women's Rights Project and the ACLU of Florida, I am filing a housing discrimination complaint against Concord Management alleging violations of the federal Fair Housing Act's prohibition on sex and familial status discrimination. You can help me take action by letting Concord know that they need to change their policy.