Domestic violence shelters play an important role for victims and their families. Shelters are essential to those who feel they have no other safe place to go. In many cases, victims of domestic violence find it difficult to locate available, safe places where they can turn. The need for safe, affordable housing for victims of domestic violence is well documented. Without access to housing options, women fleeing from abusive relationships are often forced to live in substandard conditions or return to their batterers (Fontes,2008, para. 4). While many battered women need only short-term, emergency shelter, others face numerous barriers to achieving independence free from the abuse and require long-term housing assistance and a variety of support services. Recognizing the housing needs of battered women, many domestic violence service providers now offer longer-term, transitional housing to the women and children they serve (Fontes 2008, para. 9).
While no official count exists, every state has at least one transitional housing program specifically for victims of domestic violence (Fontes, 2008, para. 11). In addition, designated federal funding for such programs has emerged, and new programs are being established regularly. To build a domestic abuse center, one should consider finding a secure location, obtaining licensure, obtain funding and resources and hire the appropriate staff. Considerations for program entry are equally critical to the successful implementation of a domestic abuse center, and are often influenced by funding sources (Berry, 2000 para. 8). For example, programs funded at least in part by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) must require that participants are homeless prior to entry (Fontes, 2008, para. 13).
To begin the process, one must research the demographic location in which the abuse shelter is being considered. There may already be existing facilities that you are unaware of, and there may not be the need for you to build in that specific location (Berry, 2000 para. 12). Contact local family and children’s service and law enforcement agencies to get their professional opinions and input on the location and need (Berry, 2000 para. 11). You will need to build good relationships with these agencies, since you will work with them in the operation of your facility.
Obtain a license to operate the shelter. Different states have different licensing agencies, but the department of health and human services or its equivalent is typically concerned with licensing safe homes. Provide information such as the name and address of the applicant, location of the shelter, the anticipated number of women to be housed, and the training and experience of the employees. Apply for non-profit, 501(c) 3 status to allow individuals and corporations to enjoy a tax deduction for contributions made toward the safe home (Berry, 2000 para. 15). Once you have this status, which can take some months to obtain, you may start fundraising, solicit donations and apply for grants and loans. Raise funds for the program by approaching your state domestic violence coalition and requesting funds under programs such as Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, the Victims of Crime Act, and the Violence against Women Act (Berry, 2000 para. 17). Once you have established a need and location, and then you can begin to seek the appropriate staff to work in your center. Staffing volunteers from agencies such as churches and educational institutions is ideal.
Alternatively, one can use a recruiting agency to find qualified volunteers with experience in areas such as social work, psychology and law. You will need enthusiastic and willing volunteers to assist with fundraising and operations (Berry, 2000 para. 21). Proper resources are excellent benefits to families living in shelters. Benefits such as legal help, counseling, support groups, services for your children, employment programs, health-related services, educational opportunities, and financial assistance are all essential (Davies, Lyon, & Monti-Catina, 1998 para. 3) general resources provide through a shelter should include early childhood education, child protective services, and domestic violence counseling and legal services. In order to provide appropriate resources, one must support and foster collaborative partnerships and cross-agency training with child welfare and domestic violence agencies, as well as other providers that provide social services (Davies, Lyon, & Monti-Catina, 1998 para. 4).
The length of time a participant can stay in an abuse shelter varies, but typically viewed as a bridge between emergency shelter and permanent housing, and offers participants sufficient time to explore their housing and employment options. The duration of the housing is driven by funding requirements; some funding sources require a minimum or maximum length of time, but rarely restrict a center from offering follow-up services after a participant has successfully left the center (Davies, Lyon, & Monti-Catina, 1998 para. 7). In closing, shelters provide secure accommodation for victims who are at risk of or have been subjected to violence. The shelters contribute far more than just a safe place to stay. With proper resources, shelters have the capacity to provide the range of protection and support services which are a benefit to survivors and those at risk of violence. Shelters can also contribute to awareness-raising and social change as part of broader efforts to prevent violence against women and girls altogether.
Author, Fontes, L.A. (January 18, 2008). Child Abuse and Culture: Working with Diverse. New York, NY: The Guildford Press. Author, Berry, D. (August 1, 2000). Domestic Violence Sourcebook. London: McGraw-Hill Author, Davies, J., Lyon, E.J. & Monti-Catina, D. (February 31, 1998). Domestic Violence Advocacy: Complex Lives/Difficult Choices. United Kingdom. Sage Publications, Inc.