The term safe houses refers to a number of different housing arrangements that domestic violence programs have made to offer safe, confidential, and temporary refuge to a woman and her children who are fleeing an abusive relationship. The term safe houses can refer to individual apartment units or houses or the use of hotel and motel rooms. Because women are often more at risk for abuse when they decide to leave an abusive relationship, the first step in securing their personal safety and that of their children is having a safe place to go where the abuser cannot find them. Therefore, keeping the location of safe houses confidential is of the utmost importance. The number of days someone can stay at a safe house varies with respect to the individual sponsoring program.
Historically, many domestic violence programs began offering free, safe, and confidential places to stay to battered women through the use of safe homes. This arrangement allowed many domestic violence programs to begin offering services before they were able to secure a facility large enough to provide shelter services on-site. Although a beginning step in providing safety to battered women, many domestic violence programs still maintain safe houses as a way to address situations when the requests for shelter are more than the number of shelter beds available and to address the circumstances of special populations of abused persons. Domestic violence programs in rural areas may also feel that using safe houses scattered throughout the community is preferable to having one facility whose confidential location can be compromised.
Safe houses can be a collection of individual houses or apartments that are owned and maintained by a community-based domestic violence program. Safe houses can also be a network of volunteers throughout the community who provide a room or a house for a woman and her children to stay temporarily.
Domestic violence shelters with limited bed capacity may also place women in a hotel or motel room temporarily until a bed or beds open up in the shelter. The domestic violence program may purchase these rooms, or the hotel or motel might provide them free of charge, particularly if they have rooms unused at the time.
Some domestic violence programs prefer to house specific populations of abused persons away from their primary shelter site and at a safe house. One example may be sheltering persons with physical disabilities at a handicapped accessible motel room when the shelter residence is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Sometimes a domestic violence shelter prefers to house a woman with a teenage son(s) at a hotel or motel in consideration of the privacy of other women at the shelter. Heterosexual or gay men who are abused may also be placed at safe houses in consideration of the privacy of women residents.
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