HOW TO HAVE A HEALING HOLIDAY? CONNECT WITH EACH OTHER
December 15, 2022 | By: Lonna Davis & Tien Ung
Families experiencing domestic violence may spend between one week and three months in emergency shelters before moving to transitional or permanent housing. Most domestic violence programs offer safe emergency housing for families in immediate danger and seek to empower all survivors to access a safer family life. However, providing a facility that offers safety to multiple families with varied needs, and different cultural backgrounds while also supporting each individual’s healing process can be extremely challenging. By consulting families to understand their needs within shelter spaces, programs can examine their shelter environment and its impact on families. Based on families’ feedback, programs can initiate positive environmental shifts that range from small and immediate changes to more long term strategies. Programs should strive to create spaces that are comfortable and feel safe for both adult and child survivors. For instance, rearranging furniture to make supervision of children easier for parents, creating colorful spaces to read or play for children, offering culturally relevant, age-appropriate books and signs or finding cozy chairs to place in quiet spaces are changes that programs can make immediately.
Programs that have resources to redesign their physical space can look at comprehensive changes that create both private and communal spaces for families that are empowering and enhance healing.
At a minimum, programs can think beyond the status quo toward creating environments that:
Empower families to make their own decisions and reclaim their autonomy and dignity.
Create a sense of security with clearly defined boundaries between the shelter and surrounding community.
Provide private rooms for families for privacy and allow social distancing.
Support families to reconnect with others and break the isolation of abuse.
Create spaces that make parenting less stressful and that support opportunities to play, rest, and strengthen family relationships and easily supervise children.
Create spaces specifically for children and teens by adding color, having comfortable seating, and provide various opportunities for hands-on activities, self-directed learning experiences and interaction with other children.
Allow opportunities for families to practice cultural traditions.
Create quiet spaces for children to do homework.
Create spaces that support parents and children to cook and eat together.
Create outdoor spaces that invite exploration, play that are accessible, inviting and safe.
Create a child-friendly area for therapy or direct service advocacy spaces helps parents connect with advocates.
Provide staff training to understand what children need to support children and families in a trauma-informed way.
Give children the space to build up trust and feel comfortable.
Minimize the need for rules and the possibility of conflict.
Human-animal bonds are a source of support, comfort, and security for many people. Explore options for making the space pet-friendly.
Soft cuddly things
Fidget spinners, playdoh, sensory bubble tubes, pipe cleaners, etc.
Objects that are interesting to look at or hold
Cards & notes with kind messages to open and read
Puzzles or calming problem solving games
Pictures of outdoors, pets, or safe people
Card decks with grounding techniques
Books, music, and other safe distractions
Blank journals for processing
Supplies for gentle yoga and mindful movement
Child sized masks and COVID testing kits
This information was adapted with permission from information developed by the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
The Building Dignity project explores design strategies for domestic violence emergency housing. Thoughtful design dignifies survivors by meeting their needs for self-determination, security, and connection. The ideas on the Building Dignity website reflect a commitment to creating welcoming, accessible environments that help to empower survivors and their children. Building dignity is the essence of advocacy.