JOURNEY TO TRAUMA-INFORMED SERVICE DELIVERY IN A DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SHELTER (SESSION B)
Rowan House Emergency Shelter is a 24 bed, 30 day stay, women’s emergency shelter (serving women and children) located in High River, Alberta, Canada. After the devastating June 2013 floods in Southern Alberta, Rowan House became one of the first domestic violence shelters in Alberta to embark on the journey toward a trauma-informed service delivery model. Developing trauma-informed services is considered a best-practice approach for all human services. The literature suggests that offering trauma-informed domestic violence services recognizes the pervasiveness of trauma and its impacts on a survivor’s ability to cope, access services, and feel safe in a new environment. Trauma-informed service delivery also challenges issues of racism, discrimination, historical and intergenerational trauma, marginalization and how trauma symptoms are often pathologized; creating mental health labels that further marginalize women and children.
Rowan House has adopted the trauma-informed philosophy of “safety first and do no harm” for both clients and staff. This presentation incorporates reflections on the unique aspects of introducing trauma-informed approaches to emergency shelter work with emphasis on rural realities and explores the impacts on the organization’s practices and policies. Specific examples of how staff gained knowledge on the impacts of trauma on clients and themselves and how this knowledge has enabled staff to identify, change or enhance existing shelter practices are presented. Testimonies from shelter clients on how they have experienced Rowan House’s journey to trauma-informed service delivery and how it has informed their own knowledge of trauma and its impact on their lives are highlighted.
The presentation will begin with a complete understanding of trauma and the impact trauma has on survivors of domestic abuse, both women and children. This presentation will be an interactive format where participants will be able to use the information gained to make immediate changes in their own organization and come away with a plan for how to weave trauma-informed practice throughout their agency. There will be an opportunity to practice techniques that could be implemented in their own organizations and strategize on how to involve the entire organization, from board to frontline, in creating a fully trauma-informed service delivery model. The compounding issues of a physical disaster in a rural area will also be explored.