Housing is the most intractable problem facing women seeking to free themselves from abusive relationships. Even routinely battered women find it hard to leave if they have no safe place to go. Yet increasingly, when Portland police or women's advocates assist victims of domestic violence, they have no options to offer.

Some women call the Portland Women's Crisis Line every day for a month, waiting for a bed to open at a shelter so they can escape abusive homes. Others give up, sometimes keeping young children in dangerous situations.

Multnomah County's recent sharp increase in domestic violence homicides might be testament to the hopelessness facing women with nowhere to go, county experts say.

Tina Jones, a Portland Police Bureau sergeant with the domestic violence unit, says some cities have found a low-cost emergency solution that she'd like to see here in Portland.

Police in those cities have partnered with motels and hotels that have a few empty rooms at night. When police have a victim who needs emergency shelter for the night - with or without children - they have prearranged to make occasional use of those unused rooms, registering the women under an alias. Local businesses have collected a fund to help reimburse the hotels.

To Jones, the program seems like a winner, using hotel rooms that would have been empty anyway. And even one safe night can give a women time to find alternative living situations, she says. It could also keep a woman and her children alive.

With funding for women's shelters more likely to shrink than grow these days, Jones says, 'We have to get creative.'

- Peter Korn

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