Department of Family Services – Domestic and Sexual Violence Services

CONTACT INFORMATION: Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
703-324-5730 TTY 711
12011 Government Center Parkway, Pennino Building, Floor 7, Suite 740
Fairfax, VA 22035
Toni Zollicoffer

Volunteer Voices – Shelter House Provides Services That Cover People Impacted by Domestic Violence

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(Posted 2022 June, updated 2023 July)




Shelter House Provides Services That Cover Domestic Violence Victims

Shelter House, a community-based, non-profit organization that provides crisis intervention, safe housing, and supportive services to homeless families and victims of domestic violence, started in 1981 as a grassroots responder to the homelessness crisis in Fairfax County. The organization has since expanded it services to include survivors of domestic violence. Volunteer Voices recently chatted with Laura Woody, chief program officer at Shelter House, about the organization’s services and why expanding services into the domestic violence arena was a logical step. This is an excerpt from that discussion:

Volunteer Voices: Talk about the history of Shelter House (my research shows this was initially about addressing homelessness in the county). When did you expand services to include victims of domestic violence?
Laura Woody: We’re a safe space for people who need our services. We’ve been around since the early ‘80s. We added our second shelter in 2007. In 2011 we were awarded the contract by Domestic and Sexual Violence Services (DSVS) to operate Artemis House. We have expanded services with a second Artemis location in region 1 in 2019. Our DVSH program (Domestic Violence Supportive Housing) primarily provides rapid rehousing services for survivors. We expanded that program to include domestic violence homelessness prevention. Through it, we work with survivors looking to exit their housing situation but who may need safety planning support while still there or housing options that don’t involve having to come to shelter.

Talk to us about the intersection of homelessness and domestic violence.
We operate a couple of family shelters; that’s where we started. But at least 50% of the people we’re serving in our family shelters have experienced domestic violence. It’s obviously connected. We’re pretty darn good at providing shelter, so this was a natural progression to expand our services to include Artemis House. We know domestic violence and sexual assault cause homelessness and create a situation where people have to get out of where they are to remain safe. Not everyone in our community has a safety net of resources to fall on. That’s when we come in and provide a safe space. 

You’re part of the group of Domestic Violence Action Center (DVAC) partners. Let’s talk about that partnership. How long have you been a partner? Why did Shelter House think this partnership would be beneficial?
We joined the partnership in 2011. We know it’s beneficial. We partner pretty closely with DVAC in terms of that we operate the [Domestic and Sexual Violence 24-Hour] hotline [703-360-7273] after hours and holidays. [The partners] know we are serving the same folks. We are all here working to address and end domestic violence in our community, so I think it was a very natural partnership. Historically DVSH was for folks not accepted into Artemis House because their situation isn’t imminent. But over the last year we’ve taken direct referrals from DVAC and Victim Services. We have to be partners in this work.

What’s the best thing about this partnership?
All of us come to the partnership with our unique expertise areas. We have always appreciated the clinical hands-on perspective DSVS brings in addition to being excellent advocates. We certainly provide advocacy, but our niche is helping people with shelter.

Being able to call upon agencies that are culturally specific is a wonderful aspect of the partnership. We want to provide services that work for everybody.

What are the challenges being part of this partnership?
Client confidentiality. We want to make sure our services are confidential. I should be able to show up for services and the rest of the folks at Artemis House and DVAC don’t know I’m there. Even with the restrictive—for a good reason—confidentially rules, our goal is to support our clients with our services. We’re all trying to make sure systems are working smoothly between our services so people don’t fall through the cracks.

What is unique about Shelter House services?
Shelter House has a long history of providing safe shelter to victims and community members experiencing homelessness. And working hard to connect them back into the community and housing. That is our niche. We are here to provide safe shelter, and our DVSH program is designed to support victims with case management services for as long as people need them. We provide the natural support and benefits so they can start fresh.

This article posting is part of the Domestic and Sexual Violence Services' Volunteer Voices monthly newsletter for current and potential volunteers. If you're not already a volunteer, learn how to get involved. Find out about upcoming trainings, volunteer trainings, happenings around the DSVS office and information about articles, books, media recommendations and more.

Learn more about the Domestic and Sexual Violence Services (DSVS).

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