Emergency Shelters

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

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From Organizational Culture to Survivor Outcomes: A Process And Outcome Evaluation Of The District Alliance For Safe Housing

Nkiru Nnawulezi

The District Alliance for Safe Housing (DASH) is a large, community-based organization located in Washington, D.C. It aims to provide services that promote self-determination, autonomy and safety for all survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV), sexual assault, sex trafficking, same-sex IPV, and homelessness. DASH also engages in systems advocacy to increase survivors’ safe housing options throughout the housing continuum. DASH uses low-barrier, voluntary, trauma-informed approaches to service delivery in order to enact their core beliefs:integrity, sovereignty, empowerment, accountability, partnerships, compassion, and re-centering. In 2013, evaluators from Michigan State University’s Research Consortium on Gender Based Violence collaborated with DASH to implement a process and outcome evaluation of DASH's program model. This document summarizes their findings.

A Call for Safe Housing: A Report on the Need for Housing for Domestic Violence Survivors in the District of Columbia

District Alliance for Safe Housing

From June to August 2007, DASH set out to understand the dynamics that impact domestic violence survivors and their search for safe housing. DASH conducted focus groups with both survivors and providers to hear firsthand some of the obstacles to securing safe affordable housing. This report chronicles their findings and provides recommendations for change.

Responding to the Call for Safe Housing

District Alliance for Safe Housing

DASH was established in response to the shortage of basic housing services for survivors in the District of Columbia. This report chronicles the progress achieved over a fine-year period in DASH's primary goals: 1. Increase the supply of safe emergency, transitional, and supportive permanent housing for all domestic violence survivors and their children; 2. Build the capacity of all existing housing programs for women in the District, to be safe housing programs for survivors; and 3. Provide domestic violence training to staff at nonresidential programs serving diverse and specific populations.

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?

Across the Continuum: Recommendations on Housing for Survivors of Domestic Violence in Florida

Carol Wick, et al.

This report was created to document and make recommendations to address the housing needs of survivors of domestic abuse throughout Florida. The authors assert that survivors of domestic abuse are affected by a unique type of homelessness and that the continuum of housing options that should be provided differs from someone who is homeless for economic or other reasons. Ideally, all housing options should address the safety, economic and physical recovery needs of the individual survivor and their children and pets.

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.

ESG-Caper Submission Update for Domestic Violence HUD ESG-Funded Emergency Shelter and Housing Providers

National Network to End Domestic Violence

This document provides an overview of the most recent HUD Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) Sage reporting requirements and how they will affect DV housing and emergency shelter programs which receive HUD ESG funds. Programs without a Comparable Database compatible with Sage reporting requirements can an extension and an alternative reporting option (this year only) from HUD to complete the 2017 ESG CAPER.

LGBTQ Domestic Violence Targeted Recommendation: Improve Privacy to Increase Access

National LGBTQ Institute on IPV

Emergency domestic violence shelters can be an important and potentially life-saving resource for DV survivors. Boh VAWA and FVPSA affirm the importance of making DV shelter and advocacy accessible to LGBTQ people. The mainstream DV field has agreed in principle but is continuing to learn how to put these principles into practice. In conversations with providers and survivors, increasing privacy emerged as strategy for reducing barriers faced by diverse LGBTQ (and other) survivors.

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.

Real Tools: Responding to Multi-Abuse Trauma - Chapter 10: How Should Advocates Respond?

Debi Edmund
Patricia Bland
Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

This toolkit was designed in hopes that it will be widely used for training advocates and other service providers, creating support groups for individuals coping with multi-abuse trauma issues, and educating and advocating in the community. The excerpted chapter describes how advocates and programs can support survivors seeking safety, sobriety, wellness, autonomy and justice by reducing service barriers and ending isolation for people impacted by multiple abuse issues. Policies and procedures to ensure culturally competent, appropriate, non-punitive and non-judgmental accessible services are key.

Creating Trauma-Informed Services: Tipsheet Series: Tips for Creating a Welcoming Environment

National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health

The environment we create communicates our beliefs about the people we serve. This environment and the way we offer services are critical aspects of our work to increase access to our programs for women who are experiencing psychiatric disabilities or the effects of trauma. This tipsheet provides guidance as to how to better ensure a welcoming environment for all survivors.

Trauma Informed Organizational Toolkit for Homeless Services

Kathleen Guarino, et al.
National Center on Family Homelessness

Given the high rates of traumatic exposure among families who are homeless, it has become clear that understanding trauma and its impact is essential to providing quality care in shelters and housing programs. This realization has lead to the suggestion that programs serving trauma survivors adapt their services to account for their clients’ traumatic experiences, that is, they become “trauma-informed”. In order to respond empathically to the needs of trauma survivors, ensure their physical and emotional safety, develop realistic treatment goals, and at the very least avoid re-traumatization, all practices and programming must be provided through the lens of trauma. This Toolkit offers homeless service providers with concrete guidelines for how to modify their practices and policies to ensure that they are responding appropriately to the needs of families who have experienced traumatic stress.

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.

Self Assessment Tool for Ensuring Access for People with Disabilities

Disability Rights Wisconsin

This tool is to be used by sexual assault and domestic violence programs to review their programs and services to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access and an equal opportunity to participate. Accessibility includes removing not only physical barriers to participation, but also cultural and attitudinal barriers. Many of the suggestions about policies and communication are best practices, and some are required by law. This tool is designed to be used with an accompanying Accessibility Guide. Links to both the Guide and the Tool can be found below.

LGBT Homelessness

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

This section of the HUD Exchange establishes a central clearinghouse of resources for the LGBT community, including information on and links to HUD's Equal Access Rule and program guidance, a toolkit on supporting transgender-inclusive projects, information on HUD's initiative for the community-wide prevention of LGBT youth homelessness, and links to LGBTQ resources and research reports.

Equal Access Self-Assessment for Shelters and Projects

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

This self-assessment is a spreadsheet that projects can use to figure out their top priorities for improving policies and procedures as regards implementation of the Equal Access Rule on transgender status and gender expression. Projects can assess their own inclusivity through answering a series of questions. The tool generates the top three action steps based on those responses. Users can re-assess their performance periodically to continue operational improvement.

Equal Access for Transgender People: Supporting Inclusive Housing and Shelters

David Canavan
Fran Ledger
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Individuals and families seeking services from HUD funded homeless projects have nowhere else to go. Too many LGBT youth and adults meet this standard and have nowhere to turn other than a HUD funded project. Acknowledging their need for assistance and seeking help is often its own struggle for those who have sacrificed much simply to recognize themselves. Transgender individuals in particular are impacted by violence and discrimination in ways that both contribute to their homelessness and keep them from accessing necessary shelter and services. HUD funds welcoming and inclusive housing programs open to all eligible individuals; the Equal Access Rule and follow-up guidance ensure that local projects know how to implement and enforce this requirement. These training materials provide CoCs and projects with the framework to create welcoming and inclusive projects for transgender and gender non-conforming people.

Mainstream Practice: Highlights from the LGBTQ DV Capacity Building learning Center Literature Review

National LGBTQ Domestic Violence Capacity Building Learning Center

This article summarizes and analyzes the body of literature from the mainstream DV movement and discusses its insights, models, and cautionary tales in terms of their applicability to LGBTQ IPV. Includes discussion of DV shelter models and new low-barrier approaches such as DV Housing First.

Open Minds Open Doors: Transforming Domestic Violence Programs to Include LGBTQ Survivors

The Network/La Red

Despite the prevalence of LGBTQ partner abuse, there are only a handful of programs in the country specifically serving LGBTQ survivors. The need for more inclusive services for LGBTQ survivors is great in all areas, but shelter and housing are especially wanting. Many LGBTQ victims become homeless due to the abuse, and there are significant gaps in the critical continuum of services, including adequate shelter and transitional living programs for LGBTQ survivors. This guide is intended to assist programs to increase their capacity to serve LGBTQ survivors.

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.

Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! A Housing and Shelter Provider’s Guide to Developmental and Behavioral Screening

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
U.S. Department of Education

As shelter and housing assistance providers help vulnerable children, youth and families exit homelessness and partner with these families as they work to obtain permanent housing, it's important to talk to families about their child’s development. If developmental concerns are caught early, providers can help ensure that children are linked to the appropriate services and receive the extra support they may need. Partnering with families and specialists to learn the signs and act early will assure that children have the best possible start to a bright future. This Developmental and Behavioral Screening Guide has been specifically designed for shelter and housing assistance providers. In this guide, you will find information on how to engage clients with children under age 5 in conversations regarding the developmental and behavioral health of their children, and how to facilitate referrals for further screening and evaluation when required.

Supporting Parenting in Shelter

Margaret Hobart
Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence

This webinar discusses the impact of domestic violence on parenting, and how organizations can work to create shelter environments that better support survivors as they reclaim their roles as parents.

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.

Creating A Culture of Acceptance: Abuse, HIV and Women in Shelter

Kenya Fairley
Michele R. Decker
Samantha Illangasekare

This 1-hour interactive eLearning module presents evidence linking intimate partner violence with women's risk of becoming infected with HIV, and discusses the impact of intimate partner violence on the lives of women living with HIV. Throughout the module, specific strategies are reviewed for crisis counselors, domestic violence victim advocates, and shelter managers to help HIV positive survivors residing in domestic violence shelters regain control of their health and their lives, including helping women recognize their own risk, providing guidance on positive action steps to increase their health and safety, and creating an environment of acceptance and support that de-stigmatizes HIV positive women.

LGBTQ Domestic Violence Targeted Recommendation: Improve Privacy to Increase Access

National LGBTQ Institute on IPV

Emergency domestic violence shelters can be an important and potentially life-saving resource for DV survivors. Boh VAWA and FVPSA affirm the importance of making DV shelter and advocacy accessible to LGBTQ people. The mainstream DV field has agreed in principle but is continuing to learn how to put these principles into practice. In conversations with providers and survivors, increasing privacy emerged as strategy for reducing barriers faced by diverse LGBTQ (and other) survivors.