SHELTER AND SAFE HOUSING

Shelter and safe housing are critical resources often needed by victims of domestic violence and their children as they flee abusive relationships. However, tribes that do not have Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) grant funding may lack critical resources for accessing and sustaining emergency shelter and safe housing. Initiative partners provide technical assistance and resources designed to assist tribal governments and tribal communities strategize ways to sustain shelter or safe housing for victims fleeing violence.

 

What is a shelter? 

A shelter is designed to ensure the safety of a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. 

There are trained domestic violence advocates who staff the shelter 24 hours a day.

What is a safe home?

A safe home can be an established “home,”or facility that may be located within or outside of the community, that is not a shelter, it may have less “bed space,” designed to meet the immediate safety needs of victims fleeing violence.

 Is a shelter or safe home different than homeless shelter or hotel/motel? 

Yes, and it is important to understand that a homeless shelter is open to anyone who may fit the criteria i.e. men or women, over 18 and may not be entirely safe for a victim who is afraid for her life or the life of her children. The hotel/motel may be in an undisclosed location however is a public facility and may impose risks for a victim fleeing for her life.

What makes a residence “secure” or “safe”? 

Safety measures or precautions may include but not limited to:

  • Locked fence, gates, security system designed for added safety

  • Strict confidentiality policies to safeguard anonymity and privacy of shelter residents

  • Location that is relatively private, for example not next to the casino or tribal offices

  • Speaker system to address those who may approach the gate or door to identify themselves

  • Trained advocates that understand lethality of batterers or perpetrators who can be manipulative to gain access or information

Is there additional housing that can be utilized for victims of domestic violence or sexual assault?

Transitional housing is another common housing resource designed for battered women and their children, this can be provided after short stays at a shelter or safe home, designed as a bridge to permanent housing. Although lengths of stay may vary, residents usually remain from six months to two years.  Residents are often required to establish goals to achieve self-sufficiency and may provide support services such as child care, financial assistance, assistance with job search, and other resources and referrals as feasible for residents. Transitional housing programs are often owned and operated by domestic violence programs and may also partner with other local housing agencies.

 

Are children allowed in shelter/safe homes?

Shelters should be designed to meet the needs of victims/survivors and child witnesses of domestic violence. The value of creating your own tribal specific shelter is that you can uphold traditional values regarding the care of native children. Tribal shelter policies should uphold the autonomy, respect and individual values of keeping families safe. For example; age limit of children, chores, individual spiritual/healing practices

What is the value of having a tribal shelter or safe home vs. a non-Native shelter or safe home?

The value is that a victim/survivor may feel safer being close to family and support and able to stay near the home where a child can still attend school. The value may be as simple as meals that are traditionally served at home, may be at the shelter/safe home such as venison, seal meat, fish, dried corn, rice etc. Additionally, groups for her or her children may be culturally specific, or there may be access to ceremony, or be in their indigenous languages. 

Are there Native specific shelter and transitional housing resources?

Creating Sister Space: A Guide for Developing Tribal Shelter and Transitional Housing Programs Red Wind Consulting, Inc. is a guidebook published by Red Wing Consulting, provides guidance for considering the intent and spirit of your tribal shelter/transitional housing program. It discusses critical components such as advocacy, confidentiality, safety planning, challenging issues, and special populations. The operating structures created within shelter and transitional housing programs will go far to determine the tone of our work and Creating Sister Space provides a resource for tribal programs to develop their shelter/transitional housing program in a way that reflects tribal values and incorporates safety.

Navajo Nation: Giving “Voice” to Victims – The Future of Shelter Starting and Administering Shelters for Battered Women, this resource is a PowerPoint presentation describing how one tribe, the Navajo Nation, created this shelter for battered women. They describe the many challenges and how they overcame many of them while they maintained the vision of a safe space for the women and children.

Tribal Transitional Housing Technical Assistance by Red Wind works with Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) grantees to aid them in the development of native/tribal specific transitional housing programs and economic justice responses for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence. Red Wind can help you with your policy/protocol development, putting in place operational structures, basic advocacy skills, and developing strategies to different circumstances including.

Policies and Procedures Guidelines For Shelters is a reference guide developed by the National Aboriginal Circle Against Family Violence to provide guidelines for developing a policies and procedures manual. The standards contained in this guide come from many different sources and are there to provide a better understanding of a concept. At no point should any of these standards be imposed on a shelter, they are solely suggestions. This NACAFV reference guide has been developed to assist in the development of a policies and procedures manual to facilitate the development, design, planning, and delivery of the shelter’s services to women and their families.

Are there helpful non-​Native specific shelter and transitional housing resources?

How to Start a Domestic Violence Shelter by Barbara Gibson is a web page that contains information on starting a domestic violence such as the importance of identifying a need, obtaining non-profit status, and opening a bank account. It also contains links for additional resource information for non-profits.

How to Set Up a Safe Home for Abused Women, this web page lays out 9 steps to establish a safe home for victims of domestic violence. This process entails finding a secure location, obtaining licensure, getting the right workers, obtaining funding, and networking with related agencies.

Board of Directors Toolkit for Nonprofit Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Organizations developed by the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault this toolkit will assist the board of directors and staff at nonprofit domestic violence and sexual assault organizations in understanding the basic elements for building the capacity of their volunteer boards of directors. This toolkit provides a general summary of each element along with links to sample tools and resources that can be adapted to your specific organizational needs. 

Transitional Housing for Survivors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence: Taking a Survivor-Center/Empowerment Approach developed by the American Institutes for Research looks at the interconnected concepts of rules reduction, voluntary, survivor-centered services, empowerment, and looks at how those concepts are implemented by victim services providers operating specialized transitional housing (TH) programs serving survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

Rules, Restrictions and Resident Empowerment in Domestic Violence Shelter Design: An Exploration and Response  this paper looks at the domestic violence shelters empowerment models that are designed to assist residents after they leave their abusers and sources suggest that victims of domestic violence who often have been controlled by their abusers can benefit from empowerment programs. Shields’ 1995 study on women’s empowerment processes identified three themes of empowerment: “1. The development of an internal sense of self.  2. The ability to act based on their internal sense of self. 3.  A salient theme of connectedness”

Domestic Violence and Homelessness is web page on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development exchange provides links and resources related to the intersection between intimate partner violence (IPV), housing instability, and homelessness, and seeks to ensure that survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking have access to safe and affordable housing.

DISCLAIMER

This project is supported by Grant No. 2017-TA-AX-K073, awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this document are those of the author and  do not necessarily reflect the view of  the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

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