Across the US, there are cash assistance programs designed to help survivors of domestic abuse take care of basic needs like food, housing, and transportation. The quickest way to find cash assistance programs in your area is to contact a local direct service provider.
Through direct service providers, you can meet with trained advocates who can offer confidential, empathetic support to help you:
- Enroll in government cash assistance programs
- Access survivor-specific cash assistance funds
- Connect with organizations that help offset the costs of staying safe through vouchers, gifts, and pro-bono services
Advocates can make navigating cash assistance programs feel less overwhelming and provide assurance that you can and will support yourself.
Savings matching programs
Another way to get access to more cash is through savings matching programs. One national option is FreeFrom’s Savings Matching Program, which helps survivors grow a savings cushion of $500. FreeFrom’s is a trust-based program, in which survivors self-report their savings each month to FreeFrom. FreeFrom will then match up to $40/month x 6 months + a $20 sign-on bonus just for participating.
When unable to get cash assistance, many people borrow money to make ends meet. If you determine you need to borrow money, it is important to protect yourself from predatory lenders.
By design, predatory lenders trap vulnerable people into loans with unfair, deceptive, or abusive terms. They often use aggressive tactics and deception to trick people into taking out loans they can’t afford. The following are steps you can take to avoid predatory lenders:
- Educate yourself. Learn about loans, interest rates, and terms, so you can more easily identify red flags. One educational resource we like is the online game Shady Sam, which helps you practice comparing loans.
- Consider alternatives. Before taking on a costly loan, consider turning to a trusted family member or friend. Additionally, many credit unions offer small, short-term loans called payday alternative loans. If you’ve been a member of a credit union for at least one month, you can often borrow between $200 and $1,000 for a term of one to six months.
- Work with an advocate. Domestic violence advocates can help direct you towards reputable institutions to financially support you.
- Ask lots of questions. If you pick a lender you’d like to borrow from, make sure you understand all the details of your loan deal including interest rates, payment schedules, penalties, and add-on fees. Although it is illegal, predatory lending is a real thing, and some unscrupulous institutions are not beyond trying to get your money no matter what. Some things to look out for include your lender asking you to sign a document that would waive any of your rights, or handing you a contract that contains blank spaces.
- Be prepared to walk away. If you feel uncomfortable or spot red flags, do not sign any paperwork, even if you’re about to close. It is much better to start over with an honest lending institution, than to get trapped in a predatory loan situation for years. There are lenders who might try to pressure you through guilt or shame, especially if they think the deal is falling through. Know that this kind of manipulation is not acceptable, and indeed it is illegal, and you can walk away with zero repercussions. If you would like to find out more about predatory lending practices and how to avoid them, click here.