According to the U.S. Department of Justice/Office of Justice Programs, between 600,000 and 6 million women are victims of domestic violence annually. Many abused women seek a safer place. Setting up a safe home for abused women in your area will go a long way in providing safety for women and their children escaping domestic abuse. This process entails finding a secure location, obtaining licensure, getting the right workers, obtaining funding and networking with related agencies.
1. Use a real estate agent to find a suitable location that complies with zoning requirements. Find local real estate agents through sites such as Real Estate Agents. Choose a safe, spacious house with several bedrooms, that is close to agencies that will provide services needed by the shelter, such as Legal Aid, churches, and the police department.
2. Start recruiting workers for the shelter. Work with volunteers from agencies such as churches and educational institutions. Use a recruiting agency to find qualified volunteers with experience in areas such as social work, psychology, and law. Hire an accountant and at least one advocate to assist in financial and legal matters.
3. Obtain a license to operate the shelter. Different states have different licensing agencies, but the department of health and human services or its equivalent is typically concerned with licensing safe homes. Provide information such as the name and address of the applicant, location of the shelter, the anticipated number of women to be housed, and the training and experience of the employees.
4. Apply for non-profit, 501(c)3 status to allow individuals and corporations to enjoy a tax deduction for contributions made toward the safe home. Download Form 1023, Application for Recognition of Exemption from the Internal Revenue Service, complete it and submit it with the required fee.
5. Form a governing board by enlisting interested community members from educational institutions, the business community, professional bodies such as community advocates, and religious institutions. Lay out the regulations on the tenure of office, compensation, roles and responsibilities of each board member.
6. Raise funds for the program by approaching your state domestic violence coalition and requesting funds under programs such as Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, the Victims of Crime Act, and the Violence Against Women Act.
7. Train employees on how to communicate with victims, offer telephone counseling and ensure women’s safety once they get to the safe house. Contact the state domestic violence coalition to request training services for your employees.
8. Network with other agencies such as local police and sheriff’s departments, Legal Aid, food pantries, soup kitchens, existing homeless shelters in your community (if any) and elected officials such as a congressperson. Approach these people and groups directly and enlist their assistance for the provision of volunteers, food, clothing, security services and working capital.
9. Get the program up and running by notifying the agencies in Step 7 about the new safe home for battered women. Provide them with contact information that women can use to reach the safe home. Prepare to receive women and their children by putting administrative volunteers, counselors and the advocate on standby to receive calls and to welcome the women.