Safe Housing Approach

With the understanding that survivors are the best judge of their situation, a safe housing approach focuses on providing a full range of safe housing options, advocacy, and trauma-informed services so that survivors can determine how best to achieve safety and housing stability for themselves and their families.

Technical Assistance

The National Alliance for Safe Housing provides Technical Assistance (TA) on a variety of topics.

Or find out more about TA and other training opportunities here.

A safe housing approach recognizes that survivors face unique barriers to accessing and maintaining housing stability as a result of the abuse they experienced, and uses these six core elements to create a pathway for survivors from violence to safety and stability:

Remove Barriers to Housing

Ensure that survivors facing homelessness have increased access to all forms of housing throughout the continuum (from emergency shelter to permanent housing options) that are suitable and responsive to their specific safety and housing needs.

Trauma-Informed Care (TIC)

Utilizing a voluntary, trauma-informed approach that affords survivors the ability to achieve safety and stability, and heal from abuse while maintaining personal dignity and agency.

Create Pathways to Maintaining Safe, Stable Housing

Create a range of housing options to meet the unique housing and safety needs of survivors, and related resources to help achieve safe, permanent housing.

Survivor-Driven Services/ Client-Centered Services

Provide survivors with the choice to determine the extent and nature of housing and services offered, ensuring self-determination in how they choose to access those options.

Survivor Safety and Confidentiality

Provide survivors with full access to housing and resources while maintaining their confidentiality and safety.

Immediate Access to Housing and Resources with No Preconditions

Promote rapid access to safe, secure and stable housing that meets survivors’ needs as quickly as possible, without the condition that they are ‘ready’ for housing.

1) Remove Barriers to Housing

Ensure that survivors facing homelessness have increased access to all forms of housing throughout the continuum (from emergency shelter to permanent housing options) that are suitable and responsive to their specific safety and housing needs.

A safe housing approach applies strategies that address these unique barriers to accessing and maintaining housing throughout housing continuum, including:

  • Multiple access points for survivors to engage homeless housing and services safely and confidentially (i.e. utilizing comparable databases for data collection), employing such mechanisms as:
    • community-based housing clinics and walk-in housing resource centers specifically for survivors; and
    • safe and confidential Domestic/Sexual Violence hotlines;
  • Co-locate survivor advocates at all homeless system access points;
  • Through housing advocacy, utilizing federal, state and local housing protections to help survivors access and maintain housing;
  • Partner with landlords to prevent evictions and shelter/housing program providers to prevent unlawful terminations or discrimination; and
  • Utilize flexible funding, coupled with advocacy, as a homeless prevention and diversion strategy.

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2) Create Pathways to Maintaining Safe, Stable Housing

Create a range of housing options to meet the unique housing and safety needs of survivors, and related resources to help achieve safe, permanent housing. A community that utilizes a comprehensive safe housing approach offers a range of accessible housing, including:

  • Safe Emergency Housing: Program models include communal or apartment style housing to serve many survivors with varying needs through offering on-site voluntary services and heightened safety and security elements;
  • Safe Transitional Housing: Program models offer an array of voluntary services and advocacy coupled with housing to create a safe discernment period for survivors to determine their next steps toward permanent housing (typically between 6 months to 24 months). Models vary from scattered site/master leased units to site-based residential programs;
  • Safe Rapid Re-Housing (RRH): Program models offer survivors the opportunity to immediately access safe housing and support within their communities. DV Housing First is considered a best RRH practice for survivors. Developed by the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, this model utilizes housing subsidies to help survivors quickly and safely stabilize into permanent housing, and provides the full range of community-based support, mobile advocacy and flexible funding to help survivors maintain their housing and rebuild their lives. The length of the subsidy and level of support are determined on a case-by-case basis. Model transitional housing programs for survivors often incorporate a mix of safe RRH strategies as well;
  • Safe Permanent Supportive Housing: This model is designed for survivors who require safe housing assistance and wrap-around, trauma-informed supportive services in order to live with stability and independence in their community;
  • Safe Housing Vouchers: Tenant-based vouchers for permanent housing subsidies is a model used to address the significant barriers low-income survivors face to maintaining housing for the long-term; and/or
  • Flexible Funding: Cash assistance to help survivors avoid losing current stable housing or to obtain other permanent, affordable housing. Key elements in this model include: rapid response to need (funds are dispersed within 24 to 48 hours), low barrier (minimal paperwork required to demonstrate need), flexibility regarding the type of expense funds can cover, no cap on amount survivor can request or number of times survivor can request funds, so long as the support will likely stabilize housing.

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3) Survivor Safety and Confidentiality

Provide survivors with full access to housing and resources while maintaining their confidentiality and safety. Strategies to ensure survivor safety and confidentiality include:

  • Locating trauma-informed advocates at every access and service point to housing and services in the community, who are trained in the dynamics of domestic and sexual violence, as well as the unique barriers survivors face to stable housing; and
  • Providing continuous safety planning and risk assessment is offered at all access and service points, keeping survivors’ self-identified needs and interests the primary focus of all service and housing plans.

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4) Trauma-informed Care (TIC)

Utilizing a voluntary, trauma-informed approach that affords survivors the ability to achieve safety and stability, and heal from abuse while maintaining personal dignity and agency.

An accepted best practice in housing and service delivery, TIC principles are endorsed by many branches of the federal government, including HUD, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Department of Justice, and include:

  • A respectful, holistic, and strengths-based approach to working with survivors that prioritizes physical and emotional safety throughout the program;
  • Uses a survivor-centered, social-change oriented approach that reframes the importance of many essential aspects of domestic and sexual violence practice (e.g. empowerment, peer support) within a trauma framework; and
  • An approach that seeks to mitigate the devastating impact of abuse and violence by promoting services and support that focus on promoting emotional safety, restoring choice and control, facilitating connection, supporting coping, and responding to survivors’ identity and context.

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5) Survivor-Driven Services/ Client-Centered Services

Provide survivors with the choice to determine the extent and nature of housing and services offered, ensuring self-determination in how they choose to access those options.

Strategies that incorporate the Voluntary Service Model, which ensures all services and housing are offered to survivors on a low-barrier, voluntary basis and at the survivors’ discretion, based on their self-identified needs and interests, including:

  • Service and housing plans are survivor-driven, and emphasize how survivor choice is integrated into how safety and housing needs are determined;
  • Service options range from crisis/emergency support (safety planning, referrals to legal support, referrals to immigration support, obtaining protection orders, relocation, etc.) to support repairing credit and rental history, case management, substance abuse and/or mental health counseling, advocacy and assistance in locating and maintaining employment, and support and assistance with children;
  • Survivors having choice in terms of the extent and nature of supports and housing offered, including flexibility in lengths of stay to account for their unique safety and community circumstances; and
  • Survivors having the ability to exit to permanent housing of their choice, with increased safety and security.

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6) Immediate Access to Housing and Resources with No Preconditions

Promote rapid access to safe, secure and stable housing that meets survivors’ needs as quickly as possible, without the condition that they are ‘ready’ for housing, including:

  • Program policies that allow survivors to self-certify in order to be eligible for housing and services, without the burden of providing proof of abuse or homelessness (including that they obtain a protection order, counseling, or be separated from their abuse).

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