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Home / Articles / Housing / Important Questions to Ask a Shelter

Important Questions to Ask a Shelter

To find the best housing alternative, some things you should consider

  • By
  • May 03, 2015
Important Questions to Ask a Shelter

In an ideal world, leaving an abusive partner would involve a carefully thought out plan that ensures the utmost safety of the survivor, as well as any children and pets also caught in the situation. Of course, in an ideal world, domestic violence wouldn’t even be an issue, so this point is moot. However, when you’ve decided it’s time to leave, there are some things you can ask an advocate or a shelter that can help you find the safest and best shelter option possible to meet your needs – unless of course the need to leave is of a life threatening nature.

First, says Ruth Glenn, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, make sure you’re doing your research on housing options away from home. Leaving is notoriously the most dangerous time for a survivor of abuse and, as clandestine as it sounds, survivors need to be careful not to leave any clues as to where they’re going. “Perpetrators will do everything they can to find them [their partner],” Glenn says.

To find a shelter near you, you can search for shelters near you, or in another desired area.

Important questions to ask any shelter: 

  1. Do you have room available when I am ready to leave my abuser?
  2. How close are you to my home? (You need to consider what is safest for you and your family — being as far away as possible from your abuser or staying within a familiar neighborhood.)
  3. Can you take my kids?
  4. Can you take my pets?
  5. Are you within my children’s school district or do you offer schooling options?
  6. Do you have any childcare options available?
  7. Can you help guide me safely out of my home? (Most shelters should provide assistance with making a safe escape plan, but if they don’t have the resources available, you can also contact an advocate at the 24/7 National Domestic Violence Hotline, 800-799-SAFE to help you.)
  8. Do you offer legal services? (This is helpful if you need to file for an order of protection, start divorce proceedings or want to apply for sole custody of your children.)
  9. Do you offer substance abuse counseling?
  10. Do you have support groups or any other types of counseling support options?
  11. How long can I stay at your shelter? Do you offer assistance with transitional housing after that? (If facing homelessness, some organizations can help a survivor transition to another temporary housing option for up to 24 months.)
  12. Do you provide any job assistance?

Glenn adds that these questions don’t necessarily need to be asked prior to fleeing an abusive partner. “Once you’re there, you may begin to ask these things,” she says. It all depends on how quickly a survivor needs to flee a situation. 

If you need to find a shelter near you or talk to an advocate, you can use our Get Help search for free. You can also call The National Hotline at 800-799-7233, text START to 88788 or chat online at