Mission Moment – Safe Shelter

Categories: Get Involved, Learn With Us
About

YWCA Spokane’s Safe Shelter is an emergency shelter service for survivors in the Spokane and surrounding area who are fleeing imminent danger from abusive intimate partners.

In 2023, our Safe Shelter served 130 adults and 118 dependents. Additionally, 85 adults and 95 dependents were accommodated with a hotel room. Our shelter provides a safe place for survivors to regroup and figure out their next step. Then, when survivors are able to move out of shelter services and into their own housing, we want to continue to be an available support system.

We know that each individual and situation is unique. “We work with survivors as they navigate dangerous and difficult circumstances with a trauma-informed approach,” states Amanda Ramshaw, Shelter Manager. Within our shelter program, we have a few different ways to meet these unique needs. Our main city shelter currently has 9 rooms, we have four satellite 2-bedroom apartments in Spokane Valley (with two more units coming soon), and have also arranged for survivors to stay in hotels.

Impact – A Survivor on a Journey

A survivor came into the safe shelter with her family. She hadn’t finished school, hadn’t been allowed to work, and had never lived on her own. During her time in our services, she overcame the barrier of not having a formal education or work experience and was hired at the Post Office. Due to her past trauma, she continued to experience depression while staying with us; however, after support from our staff, she learned to ask for help when needed. Once she was able to ask us for help, she flourished. She has since obtained a house for her and her kids and is learning to thrive.

Arriving at Shelter – Supporting Survivors for What’s Next

Leaving is the most dangerous time for a survivor. When a survivor is able to exit immediate danger safely, they then start the long and arduous process of rebuilding themselves and their lives.

“The longer I’m in this line of work the more I realize how complicated it is,” says Roupé, Shelter Advocate. “It’s not just getting people away from the immediate danger. There are so many things now on their radar after the immediate danger is gone.” We want to continue to support survivors along their journey.

Space to Adjust
Our primary shelter serves folks who identify as female and their dependents (and their pets). The intake paperwork typically takes one and a half hours, with more time needed if there are children involved or any language barriers. Afterwards, Roupé shares that most folks go to their room and sleep. We honor this transition time by giving our new clients space for a few days to adjust and re-regulate from their survival state.

Identifying Goals
After those initial days, advocates like Roupé meet with the survivor to provide case management and learn about their specific needs and barriers. We check-in about their housing goals, employment history, education situation, children, and more. Our services are survivor-driven, meaning they determine the goals they want to pursue.

“We’re trying to hopefully set them up for whatever success looks like for them,” says Amanda.

The empowerment model is a key aspect to all of our services. Survivors of domestic violence have been systematically stripped of power and control by their partner, so in our work with them we seek to promote their resilience and let them lead the process.

Navigating Systems
A first step for many of our survivors includes obtaining three important documents for themselves and their children: ID, social security card, and birth certificate. It is difficult to move forward if you don’t have all three; however, getting copies often costs money and takes time.

Roupé shares that time is usually an issue. Time involves business hours, transportation barriers, navigating complex systems, and waiting for answers. “People can get discouraged and defeated by the process and system,” explains Roupé.

The average length of stay in our shelter is 43 days. There are survivors on both ends of the spectrum with some staying for a few days and others stay with us for over 100 days. It just depends on an individual’s circumstances. We refer individuals to our community partners when appropriate and other shelter services since our capacity is limited. There continues to be a huge need in our community for low barrier, trauma-informed emergency shelters.

Moving Out – Support After Shelter

When a survivor secures stable and permanent housing, it calls for celebration. To help them transition to this next chapter, our shelter supports survivors with a variety of “move out” items, such as sheets, towels, dishes, small appliances, and more. They can also select from a variety of gift cards like Walmart, Target, Safeway, PetCo, and PetSmart.

We can provide the household with an air mattress to use at their new place and then purchase a new bed and bedframe for them. “Move out” items and other necessities like cleaning supplies are packed up in a laundry basket and serve as a starting point for people who are establishing their own household.

These resources and starter items are either donated by the community or secured through grant funding. Food and necessity drives, for instance, help keep our cupboards stocked with non-perishable foods, diapers, and pet supplies.

Aftercare Program

Our aftercare program, CHOICES, allows survivors to continue to have a community of support after they move out of our shelter. Learn more about our CHOICES program.

“We have the privilege of seeing survivors through some of the hardest points in their life, progress and grow,” says Roupé. “As humans, we get to be complicated. We also get to have our community watch us grow, evolve, and empower ourselves.”

Learn More

YWCA Spokane’s Safe Shelter manages our helpline for survivors of intimate partner domestic violence and their allies. It is staffed 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The helpline is also used to access the confidential safe shelter where trained advocates provide a screening to determine if YWCA Spokane’s safe shelter is an option.

Our 24hr domestic violence helpline is available by calling, 509-326-2255, texting 509-220-3725, or emailing help@ywcaspokane.org.

Learn more about our shelter services at ywcaspokane.org/shelter-and-housing.