Toolkit Supports Collaboration Between Domestic Violence and Homeless Service Organizations

A toolkit from the National Center on Family Homelessness supports a framework for domestic violence and homeless service organizations to collaborate.

If someone experiences domestic violence and has had to leave their home and has nowhere to stay, whether they end up in a domestic violence shelter or a homeless shelter depends largely on which one is closer and more convenient. Often, however, the services these survivors and their children receive differ depending upon which shelter they end up in. Domestic violence service organizations might focus on trauma-informed care and services related to keeping the survivors out of harm’s way, but might not understand or be aware of incidents of repeated homelessness or their significance. The homeless service organization might focus on housing, but might not know how to successfully deal with the domestic violence experience and safety issues.

Now the National Center on Family Homelessness has put together a toolkit called Closing the Gap: Integrating Services for Survivors of Domestic Violence Experiencing Homelessness - 2013 (PDF | 3.4 MB). The toolkit provides a framework for domestic violence and homeless service organizations to collaborate in useful and supportive ways. Enhanced service integration can improve the lives of domestic violence survivors experiencing homelessness.

“When we created the toolkit, our goal was to address the gap between domestic violence and homeless service organizations,” Corey Beach, one of the three authors, said. “There are challenges, but if organizations are collaborating locally, it will help improve services for families.”

Rose Clervil, who also worked on the toolkit, said, “We know that one in four women experience homelessness due to domestic violence. We heard from key stakeholders working in both systems, as well as women who have been served by both systems, about the benefits of increased collaboration.”

The toolkit identifies three areas for service improvement for domestic violence survivors. First, both homeless service providers and domestic violence service providers can increase their familiarity with the services of the other. Second, they make the services each organization offers consistent and compatible with the other. Finally, service providers can improve collaboration between systems.

The toolkit provides a tool for communities and organizations with step-by-step guidance about how to increase collaboration between homeless and domestic violence service systems. This quick reference guide covers three levels of integration:

  • Level 1: This level takes a comprehensive look at awareness and understanding. It includes assessing the survivor, the organization’s partnerships, capabilities and needs, its service delivery and referral system, and community capacity to provide additional supports.
  • Level 2: This level focuses on assessing communication and coordination. It involves meeting with leaders of both homeless and domestic violence service organizations, briefing staff on the services and capabilities available in the other system. This level also develops cross-training and cross-site teamwork opportunities, and creates feedback on coordinating policies and procedures between organizations.
  • Level 3: This level takes this groundwork and develops collaborative structures and procedures between service systems. These can include developing shared goals, aligning policies and procedures, creating a leadership structure to facilitate collaboration, evaluating the collaboration, and even considering co-locating staff to improve communications and allow for a more coordinated and responsive system of care.

The process of developing the toolkit started with a comprehensive literature review of the intersection of domestic violence and homelessness. Then the National Center on Family Homelessness conducted a survey of over 500 practitioners, policy advocates, and researchers. Finally, the National Center conducted in-depth interviews with over 15 survivors of domestic violence and homelessness, federal policy advocates, state- and local-level advocates and providers, research experts, and project consultants. The goal of the interviews was to follow up on the concerns and gaps in the system identified by survey respondents and explore the underlying issues.

This article was originally published to highlight the August 2014 theme of Community and State Systems Integration.

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Brian Prioleau
Last Updated: 04/19/2016