MAINE, Maine — Finding a safe place to live is vital when leaving an abusive relationship.
But a severe shortage of rentals throughout Maine puts a squeeze on emergency shelters for families when they are ready to live independently.
A domestic abuse survivor is providing safe housing to families fleeing dangerous situations when the rental market is very tight. Christie Davis never gave up on her dream of owning a home.
"I was rejected 13 times, offers I was putting in on houses," Davis shared.
She finally landed on a historic duplex in southern Maine that needed a significant facelift. From painting floors, a new sink, upgrading cabinets, bathrooms and replacing dated windows. But Davis has no plans to live here. The journey to homeownership took an unexpected turn.
"I want to give someone a stable life and get their kids on track to a stable life," Davis said.
Davis got approved through the Maine State Housing Authority, to accept tenants who receive government rental assistance through the Section 8 voucher program.
There are also several landlord incentives like financial assistance with putting on a new roof, which Davis plans to take advantage of. One of the apartments is rented out to a mother and three children who needed a fresh start after escaping from domestic abuse. Another family, also with three kids, just moved in. For Davis, helping these families hits close to home. She fled an abusive marriage with her two youngest daughters, Molleigh and Anna.
"I know the stress that these moms are going through looking for housing. Some people lose their jobs. I lost my source of income," Davis said.
Davis is providing housing for two families living at the emergency shelter run by Caring Unlimited, which provides support and safety planning services to anyone impacted by domestic violence. Executive Director Susan Giambalvo said families on average could spend nearly two months living in very cramped conditions because affordable housing is limited. She said Davis becoming a landlord to help survivors is changing lives.
"This is a space [where] they are going to be safe. This is a space where they are going to have more control over their lives in an environment where they get to decide," Giambalvo said.
As for Davis, who has already invested a chunk of her 401K and savings into this project, is already looking for another property.
"I am figuring out how to do it again, how to get that down payment money, looking at funding resources," she said, all to help more survivors break free of a violent past into a new beginning, with their children by their side.
If anyone needs help, they can call the Maine Statewide Crisis Hotline at 1-888- 568-1112. For more information on other resources and services from the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, click here.