Staying in a domestic violence shelter may be part of your safety plan. If you’re in an abusive relationship and considering your options, it can be very helpful to locate the safe shelters that are near you. Depending on where you live, you may be able to find a shelter within your town or city, or you may have to travel to a nearby city. The location of your safest shelter may also depend on your situation: whether you need to stay in your community to be close to family or a support network, or if it’s safer for you to be as far away from your abusive partner as possible.
You might choose to research shelter options during a calm time. It is recommended that you do this research using a safe phone or computer that your partner does not have access to. If you do not have a safe device, learn more about ways you can reduce your tech footprints (keep in mind that online search history can never be completely deleted). Domestic violence shelters often provide support services in addition to being a safe shelter. When researching shelters, consider asking the following questions (adapted from domesticshelters.org) as they relate to your personal situation. You can also ask questions when you arrive at a shelter if you have had to leave a situation quickly.
- Does the shelter have space available now? Is there a waiting list? If so, how long does it usually take for space to become available, and how often should I check for availability?
- How close is the shelter to my home?
- Can the shelter take my kids? If I take my children to the shelter, will a CPS report be made?
- Is the shelter within my children’s school district or do they offer alternative schooling options?
- Do they have any childcare options available?
- Can the shelter take my pets? (The Animal Welfare Institute’s Safe Havens project lets you search for shelters that accept pets.)
- Can they help guide me safely out of my home? (Shelters may 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 Hotline to help you.)
- Do they 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. You can also look for lawyers in your area at WomensLaw.org)
- Do they offer substance abuse counseling?
- Do they have support groups or any other types of counseling support options?
- How long can I stay at the shelter? Do they 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.)
- Do they provide any job assistance?
- Will I be assigned a caseworker at the shelter to support me in next steps?
If you decide that staying at a safe shelter is best for you, consider that sometimes finding shelter space can be stressful and difficult. Find a safe time and use a safe phone to share details of your situation with the shelter advocate. Make a list of points to go over with the shelter advocate so they understand the full picture of your experience. Some shelters prioritize clients based on the lethality of their situation, or availability may be based on who called first. You may need to speak to the shelter multiple times before you make the transition.
What to Take with You
As part of your safety plan, you might consider keeping a packed bag hidden in a safe place with extra clothing and toiletries for yourself and any family members. It may also be helpful to keep important items and information together in a safe place, or at least know where they are located, so that you can quickly grab them. Important items can include:
- Driver’s license
- Birth certificate and children’s birth certificates
- Social security cards
- Financial information (bank accounts, credit cards, etc.)
- Legal papers (such as a protective order, work permit, divorce or custody papers, passport)
- Emergency numbers (local police, relatives and friends, local doctor/hospital)
- Extra set of house and car keys
- Pay-as-you-go cell phone
- Address book
- Emergency money
Transportation to the Shelter
Transportation is often a barrier for many survivors. It can be helpful to consider all of your options, such as:
- Asking a trusted friend, neighbor, coworker or family member to give you a ride
- Having the police pick you up. If you feel that involving police is a safe option, call your local police department to ask if they can provide safe transportation. It can be helpful to document who you speak with and the information you receive prior to leaving. When you’re ready to leave, call the police department well in advance of when you need transportation to the shelter.
- Keeping cab, train or bus money stashed in a safe place for when you need it
- Using a ridesharing service (such as Uber or Lyft) if available in your area (keep in mind these services are often tied to credit cards, so your abusive partner may be alerted if they have access to the credit card account)
- Asking someone at your local church or temple for assistance
You know your situation best, so only you know which options are safest for you. If you need help creating a safety plan or locating shelters in your area, call us any time at 1-800-799-7233 or chat here on the website from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Central time.