Seeking Shelter

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.

  1. 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?
  2. How close is the shelter to my home?
  3. Can the shelter take my kids? If I take my children to the shelter, will a CPS report be made?
  4. Is the shelter within my children’s school district or do they offer alternative schooling options?
  5. Do they have any childcare options available?
  6. Can the shelter take my pets? (The Animal Welfare Institute’s Safe Havens project lets you search for shelters that accept pets.)
  7. 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.)
  8. 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)
  9. Do they offer substance abuse counseling?
  10. Do they have support groups or any other types of counseling support options?
  11. 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.)
  12. Do they provide any job assistance?
  13. 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)
  • Medications
  • 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.

8 replies
  1. Chrystina says:

    [Admin note: This comment has been edited for safety per our community guidelines]

    I found this site and I honestly don’t know how to get stuff done, but… I’m being abused and would like to find a shelter nearby. My mom has been helping me fight abuse since day 1. From what she told me about my early childhood (the parts I can’t remember), I was abused practically from birth. I remember being beaten with “the belt” and being forced to hold encyclopedias on my arms (several at once, on both arms) while staring at a wall. My mom FINALLY managed to get out with a friend, taking me and my little brother with her. We weren’t treated very kindly there, and I was sent to a mental institution twice for things like accidentally scratching one of my mom’s friend’s kids with a pen while trying to get it from him… because it wasn’t his, and stealing is wrong even if it’s a pen. They kicked us out for some reason after about 3 years.

    Then we had to live with my mom’s boyfriend’s ex-wife. She and her fiance (or husband, I really don’t know which) were chain smokers and alcoholics in Section 8 housing. Heck, even the ex-wife’s kids weren’t happy and were doing poorly in school as a result. Not only that, but her son is a diabetic. So we had to live with them for 2 years… but we were homeless and sleeping in our van 2 weeks prior to summer vacation when my dad had visitation for the whole summer. It was rough… near-constant yelling over small things, objects being thrown around… I rarely left my bed because I felt I wasn’t safe if I left my bed. That seemed to be the only pocket of safe space I had.

    Over the summer, mom got her own apartment at long last. After my last year of high school, I became stressed to no end trying to get a job and juggle college in along with that. I got tired of the yelling and made the stupid move of finally snapping from all the “if you don’t like it, then move out” responses every time I had an issue. And now after a year going in and out of jobs, job searching, having to pay rent to share a room with my brother and my dad’s girlfriend’s kid (literally $350 a month to share a room that’s typically cluttered) AND having to take care of the kitchen on top of that? I was only told I’d take care of dishes, trash, and wiping the countertops… but now I apparently have to pick up trash from around the kitchen too? I feel like I’m becoming some kind of maid and quite frankly, I have nowhere else to turn. It’s time I sought help. I know I want to get into a shelter. I know I need help getting a job. I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD, Asperger’s, Autism, Bipolar, Depression, and Anxiety. My mom probably still has my medical records, but I haven’t had a chance to retrieve them. I never applied for disability income, nor unemployment, nor social security income. I’m only 19 years old… what can I do and how?

    Reply
    • The Hotline says:

      Hi Chrystina,

      Thank you for sharing your story here. It sounds like you have been through so much with your family, and you deserve to take steps in your life that are healthy for you. We specialize in abuse between intimate partners, so we may not be the best resource for you. We encourage you to reach out to an organization like ChildHelp, which provides support for people who have experienced child abuse. You can call their 24-hour hotline at 1-800-422-4453. We wish you the very best moving forward.

      Reply
  2. Ann says:

    [Admin note: This comment has been edited for safety according to our community guidelines]

    I feel mentally stuck in quicksand. I’ve been enduring an abusive relationship with a man for ten years. At this point I feel so hopeless, very depressed, and just keep thinking , how? How is this my life turned into an awake nightmare. Yeah it’s an overwhelming surreal feeling. I don’t and can’t trust anyone. Especially the… legal system, I feel compelled to inform your company of the which he has been using fraudulently for years to serve his egocentric, controlling, selfish needs. I’m mom. I know I carried my sons in me and can remember those most precious life changing feelings.From the moment each was born, felt for the first time…unconditional love. The notion wasn’t a myth after all. And ONLY for those 2 miraculous gifts that I’m still here. My sons have 2 different fathers. Dad to my first son, has seen him 1 time. My 2nd son’s dad, is my seemingly tireless, malicious tormentor of my life. About 3 weeks ago and with absolutely no warning decided that since He and I were NOT working out said “and I think you should leave……TODAY” keep in mind I was living with him in his house, since the beginning of August 2015, but agreed foolishly not to change my address officiously …Looking back, I’m able to see how I allowed him to systematically shred every piece of being a mother, woman and human being. To the point where I had no say so in the my son’s lives, ugh such humiliating, degrading mental torture. So 3 woks ago he kicks me out, I’m speechless, I go upstairs to collect myself & come to find he called police, ” just in case” he says- however it was a very well constructed plan all along. After he ignores my emails, yes emails, since my phone disappeared the day he kicked me out. I find out he took a PFA & included my son’s- I was made aware of the final hearing 12hrs prior to it starting- but I showed up, no representation and after I was given a copy of the false allegations -was the gamut of feelings on the spectrum. I still am! I feel that the very system meant to protect, is now my arch rival. Since both he & I are in recovery( he longer than I) he plays the trump card “she’s a using addict, driving under the influence” & the like…..SHOCKING! HOW I CAN BE ACCUSED WITHOUT EVIDENCE? I DID A URINALYSIS, RESULTS: NEGATIVE! NEVER ARRESTED OR ACCUSED BY ANYONE OTHER THAN THE PLANTIFF & So..the outcome? CONTINUED ANOTHER WEEK, still NOT ABLE TO SEE MY SONS W/ CYF SUPERVISION, but after calling them was told it takes at least a week to set up, so NO CONTACT AGAIN! But allowed to speak on the phone, which HE WILL ONLY ALLOW IF PUT ON SPEAKER, I ADAMANTLY SAID YOU CANT DO THIS” Yet does! So, now here’s 2nd appearance( mind u I’m coach hopping) I GET TO COURT & before I even see judge….another urinalysis, RESULTS: NEGATIVE!!! + MANDATED TO SIGN UP FOR IMPACT! I’m so sick of telling my story, because those who know me know this is like the 4th time he’s done this & the lawyer who represented all other times agreed this is what he does, and yet WHY ISNT ANYTHING BEING DONE TO HIM? IM SUFFERING EVERY MINUTE AWAY FROM MY SONS!! I don’t feel as though I have ANY RIGHTS & the legal system is about who can file a report ( falsely or True) & tough break for the DEFENDANT’S!! Not sure why I posted this, I feel so alone and painfully wronged, I don’t know what I can do, but I’m begging someone, anyone who could share their experiences and give me some hope, options- PLEASE!!! Thank you…

    Reply
    • HotlineAdmin_BR says:

      Hi Ann,

      You have been through so much, and we’re so sorry to hear that the legal system is not meeting your needs. You certainly do not deserve to be treated this way by your partner. We would like to help in any way we can. Please contact us directly whenever you feel ready to do so by calling 1-800-799-7233 or chatting here on our website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central time. We may be able to provide some additional resources and guidance to help in your situation. We hope to hear from you soon.

      Reply
  3. Roderick says:

    [Admin note: This comment has been edited for safety according to our Community Guidelines]

    Hi my name is Roderick And with Domestic violence But am trying to children back I have clean for Eight years And the is my children really don’t want to get them back My mother law help me get a place live So my father law would see that am trying .But am tried of national violence But if I moved to sheather.It will not help me with my father law I need a but better way for us.So my children can be with me. The age is 7 that girl and my son is seven years age Help me with trouble am having

    Reply
    • HotlineAdmin_BR says:

      Hello Roderick,

      This sounds like a difficult situation, and we would like to help in any way we can. Please contact us directly by calling 1-800-799-7233 or chat live here on our website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central time.

      Reply
      • Leigh says:

        [Admin note: This comment has been edited for safety per our community guidelines]

        How do i get out of a bad situation? I have a service cat for my disability that I can’t leave behind. I am new in the…area and don’t know anyone. Please help

        Reply
        • HotlineAdmin_BR says:

          Hi Leigh,

          I encourage you to contact us directly at 1-800-799-7233 or chat here on our website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central time. Our advocates will be able to provide personal and confidential assistance.

          Reply

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