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Where will I sleep? What will I do with my dog? What if I can’t take anything with me when I leave? These are just a few of the many questions that run through a survivor’s mind when deciding to go to a domestic shelter.
Domestic violence shelters vary in policies and services. But, there are certain things you should be able to count on when going to a shelter. Here’s what you can expect to help make the transition a little easier.
You’ll be safe. The top priority of domestic shelters is your safety. Locations are often kept private and security should be paramount. Shelter setup varies greatly. If you’re by yourself, you may share a room with another survivor. If you’re coming with children, you’ll likely share a room with them. Most shelters have common areas for kitchens, living rooms and bathrooms. But some shelters offer apartment-style living and others may place survivors with a host family.
Your stay will be free. You should not be billed for any services. Most shelters will give you a timeframe for how long you may stay and help you set goals to transition to another living situation. Stays range from three or four days at emergency shelters to one or more months at long-term facilities.
Transportation may be provided. Most organizations offer free transportation to the shelter. Some also offer free access to public transportation from the shelter to outside services and appointments.
Your children will be safe. Shelters understand that children are often involved in domestic situations. Your children should be welcome at the shelter and should be allowed to stay with you. Childcare will largely be your responsibility but some programs provide childcare during group and individual counseling sessions, as well as during the day or evening.
You’ll have basic necessities. You should be provided with food, clothing, toiletries and linens during your stay. Shelter staff should also help you make arrangements to replace any medications, personal documents or other items you may have needed to leave behind.
You can find referrals for pets. Most shelters do not have capacity to care for pets (though some do) but can offer you resources so you don’t have to leave pets behind. Service animals should be welcome at shelters.
Your stay will be confidential. Shelters should not share your personal information with outside agencies, unless you give explicit permission to do so. In turn, they require you also keep the identities of other residents confidential.
You probably can’t have visitors. Most shelters do not allow visitors in order to help maintain privacy for all residents, but you should be allowed to meet with family and friends elsewhere.
Leaving your home is never easy, but rest assured domestic shelters are there to assist you and to do everything they can to accommodate your needs or help you find additional resources.
To find a shelter near you and receive a list of services provided by each, visit DomesticShelters.org. Once you identify the shelters near by using the site, you can check the “compare” box for multiple shelters and see a side-by-side comparison of the services offered.
Looking for someone to speak with? Enter your location to find phone numbers for domestic violence experts in your area.
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