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NNEDV hosts Voluntary Services Training for OVW Transitional Housing Grantees

April 25, 2014

April 25, 2014 – Last month the transitional housing team at the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) hosted and presented, along with other national presenters and local programs as panelists, a Voluntary Services Training in Washington, DC for Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) Transitional Housing Grantees.

Survivors of domestic violence often face a lot of barriers when escaping abuse, including accessing housing. For some survivors becoming safe may mean entering a shelter or transitional housing program. Shelter typically houses victims up to 60 days while transitional housing may give them a place to live for up to 24 months. During this time, survivors may receive financial assistance for rent, utilities, childcare and other necessities allowing them an opportunity to heal and increase their economic stability.

However, often time’s programs institute a number of rules and policies which can mirror the characteristics of an abusive relationship, such as dictating when survivors and their children can eat and sleep, when and where they should be going, who they can see. Often abiding by these rules is a requirement for survivors to remain safely housed. Program structures that recreate the dynamics of a controlling environment can revictimize survivors during a time when they are seeking freedom and safety.

All OVW transitional housing programs are required to provide support services on a voluntary basis. This means participation in services such as clinical counselling, peer-to-peer counselling, support groups, employment training, and referrals to outside agencies cannot be a condition of being eligible for, or maintaining housing. This approach also recommends reducing the amount of rules and policies thus giving survivors the power to make their own decisions. The voluntary services approach is a nationally-recognized best practice that is now a requirement under VAWA and Family Violence Prevention and Services (FVPSA) funding.

This two-day training offered information on how to provide housing and support services that are trauma-informed and survivor-focused. It also offered an interactive space where programs discussed positive experiences or challenges with incorporating the voluntary services approach in their programs. NNEDV and OVW’s goal is to provide practical methods and resources to implement this approach as well as challenge grantees to meet the individual needs of each survivor.

In our more than eight years providing support and guidance to transitional housing service providers, survivors have reported that their time in transitional housing is more meaningful and supportive because services are suited to their specific needs. NNEDV recognizes the complexities of offering services specifically tailored to each survivor and we commend these programs for their effort and commitment in this work. NNEDV works daily with local domestic violence and sexual assault programs, state coalitions, and other homeless service providers to provide resources and education around creating programming that does not dictate a survivors experience in their program but rather allows them to partner with each survivor to best meet their needs. It is our hope that grantees will continue to explore ways to engage with survivors and analyze success without mandating services.

Learn more about the Transitional Housing program or contact us with any questions regarding the Voluntary Services model, clarification on OVW Transitional Housing requirements, or general questions related to housing models and recommended best practices for housing programs.