Have you wondered if a domestic violence shelter is right for you?
This is actually a great question to ask yourself when you are leaving an abusive relationship.
There is so many things you need to think about when deciding on a domestic violence shelter.
Deciding to go to a shelter for help is a big decision.
Let’s talk about all the different things you need to consider when choosing if a shelter is the right choice for you.
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I am a survivor of domestic violence and I did go to a domestic violence shelter.
I benefited so much from the program and made many friends while I was there.
However, shelter life isn't for everyone and there are a lot of things you need to consider when making the choice on which one best suits you.
You also need to decide if the shelter is the best choice for you.
Shelters are built to help you make a plan for your life after you leave the shelter.
History Behind Domestic Violence Shelters
Domestic violence shelters became a thing because of the feminist act that started in 1884.
Though the first woman's shelter opened didn't open until 1971.
This shelter was located in Chiswick, England and was opened by Erin Pizzey.
Erin created the refuge to help people escape their abusers to attempt to break the cycle.
The first woman's shelter in the United States was in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1973 by the woman's advocates .
The first men's shelter opened in 2017 and is located in Batesville, Arkansas.
Domestic Violence Shelters are run, funded, and managed either by governments or by volunteer non-government organizations.
Before you decide on moving yourself or your children into a sheltered home or apartment you want to think about a few things first.
There are a lot of different types of domestic violence shelters and they are ran on different beliefs.
You also need to find out what programs they offer if you are wanting to get help with finding housing, jobs, and other things you will need to live independently.
You also need to find out how long you are able to stay in the shelter and what time line you will need to complete certain things.
Having all this ready before you escape your abusive relationship is very important.
Philosophy Of The Domestic Violence Shelter
It is important to make sure that the philosophy of the organizers of the shelters accords with your own.
The last thing you want is to end up in a shelter that is ran differently then what you believe.
Part of the healing process is making a connection with who you are.
Some shelters are run by feminist movements.
Shelters ran by feminist movements strongly emphasize self-organization, co-operation, and empowerment through decision-making.
Other shelters are organized and ran by the Church or other religious organizations.
These shelters demand adherence to a religious agenda.
If you aren't a religious person this may not be what works for you.
Some shelters cater to the needs of specific ethnic minorities or neighborhoods.
This again may not pertain to you.
You can call your local shelters and ask them what their philosophy is.
What Are The House Rules
Every shelter has their own house rules.
You need to to make sure you can abide by the rules they have.
Some shelters are non-smoking and they have a no tolerance policy.
They may have rules about having a relationship.
Most woman shelters won't allow men on the premises.
Knowing what the kitchen rules are is another important thing you need to think about.
Most domestic violence shelters have the household members provide meals certain nights of the week.
Know The Domestic Violence Shelter
Make sure you know about the shelter before you make the choice to move into it.
Talk to someone who has stayed in the domestic violence shelter.
Find out what their thoughts are and if they feel like it helped them.
Ask them about the daily things they did as a part of the shelter.
Ask them about the rules they had to follow while they were there.
Also ask if they felt like the rules were fair among all residents.
If you don't know someone, you can always look the shelter up online.
Most people leave a review of the shelter and what things were like for them.
If you have a social worker you may even ask them.
Ask to visit the shelter before making your choice.
I would visit both in the morning and in the evening so you can see what goes on.
Find Out How Safe The Shelter Is
The last thing you want is to end up in a shelter and your abuser find you.
After all you are leaving your abuser because you no longer feel safe.
Your safety is so very important.
If a shelter can't ensure you or your children's safety then it does you no good to stay there.
Making sure the shelter keeps your information confidential is a start.
Does the shelter have it's security on site?
Also knowing what they allow as far as visitation with an abuser is something that is important too.
You don't want someone else's abuser causing a traumatic experience for you or your kids while you are trying to heal and work on yourself.
Finding out if the shelter is acquainted with domestic violence laws and if it works with all agencies who handle domestic violence is important.
How Does the Shelter Handle Children
If you have children you want to make sure their needs are going to be able to be met.
Finding out what accommodations they make to parents and their children is something you need to think about.
What services will they provide with you having children?
Do they offer child care while you are working or completing other services you need to complete?
Find out what things will cost for you and your children, if there is a fee at all.
You are leaving your partner, so you will need to make sure that you know what help you will have with your children.
Also find out what the other people in the shelter are like before making the choice on a shelter.
You do not want to take your children somewhere they could be further damaged.
What's The Access To The Public
You need to look at the area where the shelter is located.
If you don't have a vehicle, this is really important.
Find out if there is public transportation close to the shelter if you need it.
Finding out what is within walking distance of the shelter is something else you want to be aware of.
What is the school system like in the area?
Asking if the school offer busing options is very important too.
Find out what other community service options are in the area.
Asking the shelter if they help provide transportation is something you may want to find out about.
Some shelters may have this as an option, but most do not.
What Programs Does The Shelter Offer
While you are looking at domestic violence shelters, you want to make sure you find out what benefits you can take with you.
Finding out if they offer programs and workshops is a great thing to ask about.
Domestic violence shelter often offer support groups for residents.
Knowing who does these programs or workshops is also important information to find out.
Does the shelter rely on volunteers or do they have professionals?
Knowing who is going to be working with you or your children may impact your decision.
Ask if the shelter provides counselling for you or children.
Ask someone what options they have when it comes to therapy for children.
Also ask about any other therapy options you may need.
Find out if the programs and workshops offer group or individual therapy is something to look into.
Important Things You Need To Know
Shelters are only a temporary solution so you need to make sure you know what the plan is and stick to it.
You will be expected to move out eventually, so finding out about programs for long-term housing should be a priority.
Another thing you need to remember is not everyone is accepted into domestic violence shelters.
Sometimes this is because the shelter is full, other times it could be for another reason.
When you apply to the shelter they may require you to complete an interview.
They may also screen you for both your personal needs and compatibility with the shelter's guidelines.
They also need to determine if it really is a crisis situation.
Some people take advantage of shelters and use it for a way to just get away from everything.
Of course that makes it a little more difficult for people who really need the help, but this a must.
Even after you complete all these things you can still expect to be placed on a waiting list.
Remember shelters are not vacation spots.
They are serious about defending the vulnerable and that means you need to be serious about doing your part.
Making The Best Choice
Overall I hope this gives you a good idea of what you need to consider before going into a shelter.
When you move into a shelter, you must know in advance what your final destination is.
Imagine and plan your life after the shelter.
Make sure everything is sorted out before you make your move.
After you have made a plan, then you can pack your things and leave your abuser.
Let me know in the comments below if this has helped you.
I would also love to hear your story, so feel free to email me at SarahS[email protected], or even leave it in the comments.
Remember to share you never know who may need to see this.