What next? Part 3

Earlier this year, our executive director, Nan Stoops, was invited to be the keynote speaker at a conference organized by the Hawai’i State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Her assignment: outline a five-point plan for ending violence against women and girls.

Here is the next installment of her speech. (Or jump to: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6)

Point #2: Evolve our shelters

Emergency shelter saves lives. It’s a refuge, a resource, and a respite. It’s also costly, sometimes chaotic, and almost always, limited in the time, space, and material assistance it can provide. I don’t know if and how you experience these challenges, but I think they are so prevalent now that we must face head-on this question about how to evolve shelter services. While it is essential to keep shelters going, we need to be honest about the fact that they serve only a small percentage of survivors, they make the community dependent on US to provide support and care, and, while they may stop violence against some women, they do not end violence against all women.

In Washington, we are examining shelter in three ways. First, we are re-evaluating shelter rules, so that families have more flexibility and self-determination while in residence. Second, we are designing shelters architecturally and programmatically to support moms with parenting, to respect religious and cultural practices, and to reduce how many people have to share communal spaces―like a kitchen and a bathroom―as a part of shelter life. And third, we are helping shelter programs focus on providing what women say they need in order to be financially self-sufficient: housing, job training, childcare, in one instance, a bicycle, and in another a spare tire.

This work is confirming the thinking that brought us to it. And that is―nobody really wants to live in a shelter. So let’s find a way to preserve what does work and incorporate some other things that might work even better.

9 thoughts on “What next? Part 3”

  1. I spent 2 years working in a DV shelter in SC and attended the NCADV conference in WA, DC in July 2009. I have walked away from this work because I have found that as much good as we do, or try to do, we sometimes end up shooting our own wounded. Issues related to power and control, authority, who knows best and what training and/or life experience is necessary to have a real contribution seem to bog us down and prevent the true work from being accomplished. I watched staff turn over so often it made it difficult to forge trusting relationships with co-workers. I saw honest, hard-working, dedicated people fired, re-hired and fired again. I myself was subjected to belittling, hurtful comments. These problems made what should have been a safe port in the storm of life just another chaotic and unhappy experience for a lot of people who needed our help and didn’t get our best from us. I have since talked to many people who work in DV programs and shelters and have found this is more the norm than the exception. What are yopur thoughts?

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