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Moving the Field
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The National Center on Family Homelessness has put together a toolkit to provide a framework for domestic violence and homeless service organizations to collaborate in useful and supportive ways. Brian Prioleau interviewed the authors of the toolkit to learn more about the benefits of increased collaboration.
Moving the Field

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 can be different depending upon which shelter they end up in. Domestic violence service organizations may focus on trauma-informed care and services related to keeping the survivors out of harm’s way, but may not understand or be aware of incidents of repeated homelessness or their significance. The homeless service organization may focus on housing, but may 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. It provides a framework for domestic violence and homeless service organizations to collaborate in useful and supportive ways to improve the lives of domestic violence survivors experiencing homelessness, through enhanced service integration.

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

Rose Clervil, who also worked on Closing the Gap, 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: both homeless service providers and domestic violence service providers can increase their familiarity with the services of the other, make the services each organization offers consistent and compatible with the other, and 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. The Quick Reference Guide goes through three levels of integration: Level 1 takes a comprehensive look at awareness and understanding, assessing the survivor, the organization’s capabilities and needs, service delivery and their referral system, partnerships, and community capacity to provide additional supports.

Level 2 focuses on assessment of 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 and developing cross-training and cross-site teamwork opportunities, and creating feedback on coordinating policies and procedures between organizations.

Level 3 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.

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