Emergency Shelters

Innovating on traditional models can help shelter programs keep pace with the changing needs of their participants.

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How the Earth Didn't Fly into the Sun: Missouri’s Project to Reduce Rules in Domestic Violence Shelters

Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence

When advocates in residential domestic violence programs throughout Missouri questioned the role of rules for residents within their programs, they were revisiting a familiar struggle. The concept and conflict of having rules in shelters has been around for as long as shelters have existed. After hearing advocates’ consistent concerns, the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence staff began discussing the possibility of a different approach, one focused more on advocacy and less on rules. Out of these questions and discussions came the Shelter Rules Project, a chance for shelter programs to examine and decrease their rules to better align with their agencies’ philosophies and missions while receiving support from their state Coalition and colleagues. What began as a one-year plan in 2007 has continued into the present. Surveys, suggestions and the philosophy these programs followed are now compiled in this manual, or “How-to” guide, funded by the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence.

Domestic Violence Victims in Rural Arizona: Needs in the "Balance of the State"

Bill Hart
Eric C. Hedberg
Anthony Hack

This study was sponsored by the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) and the Arizona Department of Economic Security (ADES). It had two main goals: (1) To survey rural DV victims, shelter operators, advocates and other stakeholders concerning the needs of rural Arizona victims; (2) Based on this information, to suggest questions for discussion about how best to improve service delivery in Arizona’s rural areas and small towns. Most victims and advocates surveyed in this project indicated that emergency shelters retain an important role in rural and small-town Arizona – in part because relatively few other services are available at reasonable distances. However, survivors indicated that their needs tended towards practical necessities, such as housing, transportation, and help finding employment, rather than the physical protection provided by shelter. Most advocates acknowledged the value of the “rapid rehousing” approach to serving DV victims, but expressed doubts that many of their clients could succeed in such a program, especially given a general lack of affordable housing and transportation.

Serving Valley Victims of Domestic Violence: Challenges and Choices

Bill Hart
Iliamari Vazquez
Eric C. Hedberg

This report was commissioned by the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence O’Connor House. The study had three goals: (1) To survey DV victims and advocates concerning the needs of Maricopa Valley victims; (2) To review utilization rates and other aspects of the Valley’s 10 emergency DV shelters; (3) Based on this information, to suggest questions regarding the Valley’s campaign against DV that would prompt useful discussions among stakeholders and practitioners. Among the questions examined were: why is shelter use declining, while average stay is longer? Is shelter the most cost-effective model? How are survivors who don't use shelters addressing their complex needs?

Safety & Privacy Considerations When Using Hotels for Emergency Shelter Stays

National Network to End Domestic Violence

Some domestic violence shelters may use hotels or motels for overflow when their emergency shelters are full or when a hotel better meet the needs of the survivor (accessibility, safety). Programs will often have to take extra precautions around safety, privacy and confidentiality. When survivors stay at a hotel or motel, the shelter staff cannot control who enters or leaves the hotel or the possibility that others may reveal the survivor’s location. This handout provides some suggestions and best practices on how programs can maximize survivor safety and confidentiality when working with a hotel or motel as an emergency shelter option.

Gender-Integrated Shelters: Experiences and Advice

michael munson
Loree Cook-Daniels

More and more domestic violence shelters are considering expanding to serve all genders of survivors. Some shelters have housed male, transgender, and non-binary residents alongside non-trans women for years. How have they fared? What barriers did they have to overcome? What advice do they have for other shelters considering gender integration? This unique publication presents the results of in-depth interviews with 20 gender-integrated shelters, providing a thought-provoking roadmap for shelters wanting to serve all those in need.

Safe Horizon’s Lang Report: Beyond Shelter: What Do Domestic Violence Survivors Need?

Safe Horizon

Experiences of isolation, physical, emotional or economic abuse, and financial dependence leave many victims without the resources to build a new life for themselves and their children. For survivors in crisis, domestic violence emergency shelters offer a safe refuge. Shelters have been found to reduce the frequency and intensity of ongoing violence and decrease depression. Shelters work—they help end violence in one’s life. But there is much more shelters can and should offer. That’s why Safe Horizon designed The Lang Report, a longitudinal needs assessment to learn how Safe Horizon—and other service providers—can better support emergency domestic violence shelter residents both during and after their stay in shelter.

Confidential Shelter Locations & The Internet: How Information Gets Online & What To Do About It

National Network to End Domestic Violence

With search engines offering an abundance of information, it has become increasingly difficult for shelter locations to remain confidential. Programs can take steps to hide their confidential shelter address, but it is also imperative that programs understand how their shelter location information gets shared, how to lessen risk of shelter disclosure, and the different ways to get the shelter location off of the internet.

La ubicación confidencial de un refugio y el Internet: Cómo se difunde la información y qué hacer al respecto

National Network to End Domestic Violence

Con los motores de búsqueda que ofrecen abundante información, cada vez se hace más difícil lograr que la ubicación de los refugios siga siendo confidencial. Los programas pueden tomar medidas para ocultar la dirección confidencial de su refugio, pero también es imperativo que estos entiendan cómo se comparte la información sobre la ubicación, cómo reducir el riesgo de divulgación y las diferentes formas de eliminar la dirección física en el Internet.

Working with Victims with Brain Injuries in Domestic Violence Shelters

Brain Injury Association of New York State

Domestic violence victims who have a traumatic brain injury (TBI) may need help coping with the high levels of stress and stimulation that can exist in a shelter. Living communally is challenging, especially when other residents are dealing with trauma, high levels of stress and fear, and with distressed children. Because TBI affects different people differently, residents will have different needs. This article provides guidance about supporting victims with TBI while in shelter.

New Report Details Need to Improve Access to Services for Deaf Survivors

National Housing Law Project

A January 2015 report released by the Vera Institute of Justice describes how DV shelters often lack language and cultural competencies necessary for serving Deaf survivors. This article summarizes the issue confronting Deaf survivors specifically, and describes several pathways toward improving access to domestic violence resources for Deaf survivors discussed in Vera report.

Sheltering Transgender Women: Providing Welcoming Services

michael munson
National Resource Center on Domestic Violence

Transgender and non-transgender survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) share the same vital need for safety, shelter, and support services. All trans individuals who have experienced IPV deserve and are entitled to the same level of support and services that other trans and non-trans individuals can access. Although the majority of barriers all gender vectors of trans people face are similar, there are some challenges to shelter access, system structures, and trans-specific issues that are unique to individuals on the trans-feminine spectrum, trans-masculine spectrum, and to those who are androgynous or gender non-conforming. To better discuss the unique challenges and solutions for these populations, this document focuses on trans women and references separate tandem documents that concentrate on trans men and gender non- conforming individuals who are seeking shelter. The recommendations within this document apply to the majority of trans women, however, there may be unique variables for immigrant1 and non-English-speaking trans women, as well as for trans women of color, who may have additional layers of intersectional barriers. 

Increasing Access for Male Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence

California Partnership to End Domestic Violence

The intent of this training is to provide trauma-informed best practices related to new guidelines presented by Office of Civil Rights and VAWA 2013. Discusses provisions for sex-segregated and sex-specific services, comparable services, and provides program examples of shelters housing male as well as female survivors.

Sufficient Sleep: A Necessity, Not A Luxury

HCH Clinicians' Network

This issue of Healing Hands, a quarterly newsletter produced by the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, discusses the difficulties homeless people can experience with getting sufficient sleep - both on the streets and in shelters. Sleep deprivation can contribute to chronic health conditions and a host of other problems. The authors suggest strategies that shelters can employ to mitigate this problem.

Sheltering Animals and Families Together (SAF-T) Start-Up Manual

Allie Phillips

When domestic violence victims with pets consider fleeing abusive homes and there is no safe place to house their pets, they have little choice but: (1) to remain in their homes and subject themselves, their children and their pets to continued violence, (2) to flee with children and pets and become homeless, or (3) to flee and leave their pets behind. Because victims understand the extent of the harm that their abusers will likely inflict upon their pets, if left behind, many victims simply remain in violent relationships. Recognizing both the urgent need to protect domestic violence victims from further abuse and the comfort that pets provide people, especially in times of stress and trauma, these guidelines were launched in trainings in 2004 and subsequently in a national initiative in 2008 to guide domestic and family violence emergency housing shelters toward permitting residents to bring their pets with them. 

Safe Havens Mapping Project for Pets of Domestic Violence Victims

Animal Welfare Institute

As used here, "safe havens" refers to the sheltering services available in an area that assist victims of domestic violence with placing their companion animals out of harm's way so that they may seek safety for themselves. AWI's ongoing Safe Havens Mapping Project is an integrated, comprehensive state-by-state listing of sheltering services for the animals of domestic violence victims.

Strong Foundation for Healing: Shelter & Sexual Violence

Kris Bein
Christi Hurt

Sexual assault is a most intimate crime, and when it happens in our most intimate sanctuaries— our homes—the trauma is devastating and difficult to escape. Given that most sexual assaults take place in or near victims’ homes or the homes of victims’ friends, relatives, or neighbors, for many survivors of sexual violence, home often is not safe. The author asserts that until recently, the anti-rape field has not considered shelter and housing to be sexual violence issues. But now, equipped with research and inspired by some promising practices, the field is identifying housing as a core issue in sexual assault advocacy work. This paper considers issues and advocacy related to emergency shelter and longer-term housing for sexual violence survivors.

Early Childhood Self-Assessment Tool for Family Shelters

Office of Early Childhood Development
Administration for Children and Families
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Family shelters provide essential services to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers during a difficult time in their lives. As you work to connect families to permanent housing, you can ensure that your shelter environment assists the physical, socio-emotional, and intellectual development of children ages 0-5 to support these children through their experience of homelessness. Creating this safe, developmentally appropriate environment will assure that the infants, toddlers, and preschoolers in your shelter have the best possible start to a bright future, as they exit homelessness into permanent housing. The Early Childhood Self-Assessment Tool for Family Shelters is specifically designed to help shelter staff members create shelter environments that are safe and developmentally appropriate for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. In this tool, you will find recommendations and information on how your shelter environment, programming, policies, and staff can support early childhood safety and development.

Model Medication Policy for DV Shelters

National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health

As state domestic violence coalitions and local domestic violence programs across the country work to create more accessible and trauma-informed shelter programs, staff and advocates have sought guidance on designing medication policies that better serve survivors who are experiencing mental health symptoms or living with mental health disabilities. This Model Medication Policy for Domestic Violence Shelters, developed in response to these requests, is intended to provide coalitions and programs with guidance on designing medication policies that reflect survivor-centered values and to help to create more accessible and trauma-informed shelter environments. It also provides guidance on drafting policies that comply with ethical and legal obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Fair Housing Act (FHA), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. These three federal statutes have implications for how domestic violence shelters screen and admit survivors and how they store and handle medications.