Residential Programs and Communal Living

Shelter Rules
While some rules and regulations are necessary for shelters to be effective, many programs have discovered that an excess can be unproductive and may trigger memories of violence and coercive control. Many perpetrators of domestic violence try to control their partners by imposing excessive rules (for example, nightly curfew). Thus, a shelter environment may unwittingly mimic the constraints of an abusive relationship. This section explores the different ways that shelters can encourage autonomy and respect past experiences while maintaining a sense of order and stability.

"We found many of our rules unnecessarily controlling, and found they did not foster the environment of empowerment that we wanted to create in our program... we agreed that it would not hurt to try a new approach to our services, especially one that is designed to promote empowerment." - Tautfest


"Although advocates are often pushing systems, communities and individuals to change behaviors and attitudes about violence against women, it is not as easy for advocates to change their own systems." - MCADSV

Physical Elements of Shelters
Physical space and design are essential parts of how survivors experience and access a shelter. This section highlights the oft-overlooked physical elements such as location, building materials, and interior design.

building-dignity-logo.pngBuilding Dignity: Design Strategies for Domestic Violence Shelter
Thoughtful design dignifies survivors by meeting their needs for self-determination, security, and connection, while supporting parenting and minimizing the need for rules. This project of the Washington Coalition Against Domestic Violence reflects a commitment to creating welcoming, accessible environments that help to empower survivors and their children, and have their origins in conversations with shelter residents and advocates. The site is designed to be useful to advocates, executive directors, architects and designers.


"When I wanted to implement some physical fixes and we didn't have the money, I went to the community and asked for it. I can't believe how much you can get when you ask for it!" - WSCADV

Feeding Shelter Residents
Most shelters provide meals for their residents. This section is a starting-off point for shelters assessing their nutrition practices to ensure that food is appropriate, healthy, and safe.