Facts about Women's Shelters (Part 2)
Continuing our discussion about Women's Shelters
How does someone find a women’s shelter?
While this article is not intended as advice for women seeking escape from domestic violence, the first and most critical piece of information about women’s shelters is how to find one, so I’m including it again here in the second part of this two-part series.
If you or someone you know needs to escape domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) at
Text START to 88788
For more information about the NDVH, see the first part of this series.
How long can people stay at a women’s shelter?
The terms and length of service among women’s shelters vary. Most strive to offer stay lengths that are as lengthy as possible because the time required to make new living arrangements, cope with post-trauma complications, and separate from or negotiate with abusive partners is different for everyone. Severe time constraints can exacerbate the trauma of domestic abuse. Many shelters offer an initial 30-day stay, and in many cases this term can be extended after case reviews. Some shelters offer indefinite stays. Some shelters offer composite services in which a safe-house stay is followed by other forms of continuing education, counseling, and housing assistance. For example, some CAPSA shelters offer a 2-year program of transitioning abuse survivors from CAPSA shelters to subsidized housing to full independence.
What services and resources are provided by women’s shelters? Not surprisingly, different women’s shelters offer different services and resources, and no two are exactly alike. However, most women’s shelters will provide (1) safe, private living space for the survivor and her children; (2) food, clothing, toiletries, and bathing and laundry facilities; and (3) amenities such as transportation, Internet access, and recreation. Some shelters will provide more or greater levels of service. Some offer educational programs, legal assistance, job-search assistance, and even assistance to take care of displaced pets.
How do women’s shelters keep their clients safe?
When people think of women’s shelters, most imagine safe-house locations that are closely guarded secrets. While keeping locations secret is common among women’s shelters, the practice has become problematic and increasingly impractical. For one thing, the sheer power of contemporary online search resources makes it very difficult to keep such secrets from those who are determined to find them out. Secondly, once the location of a shelter is leaked, it can’t be “unleaked.”
In addition to being inherently problematic, secret locations may cause the opposite of their intended effect. Instead of inducing a feeling of security, the constant worry of a supposedly secret safe-house being discovered by a vindictive, determined relative or partner may have the unwanted result of adding to the anxiety of a client rather than reducing it.
More often, women’s shelters are dispensing with site secrecy and focusing on-site security. Strongly restricted access to shelter premises, multiple locations, high-tech security systems (including electronic surveillance), and “speed-dial” arrangements with local law enforcement are replacing location secrecy.
Confidentiality also plays an important role in women’s shelter security and safety. People who stay at women’s shelters must agree to not disclose their stay, location, movements, or those they meet and work within the shelter. While most shelters will facilitate visitation by friends and family at off-site locations, visitors are almost never allowed at the shelter itself.
How are women’s shelters paid for?
Women’s shelters are usually compassionate-service nonprofit organizations that offer their resources and services at no cost to those they assist. Women’s shelters are funded by a blend of grants (state, federal, non-governmental, and private) and private donations from individuals and businesses. Women’s shelters may receive portions of the funding set aside for programs associated with the Violence Against Women Act .
It is not uncommon to experience difficulty in the search for a women’s shelter that has openings. Most women’s shelters are constantly in need of funding increases to handle more clients, expand operations, and launch new initiatives.