Entering into shelter

Often, community members are curious about what goes on during the intake process in a shelter setting. At Genesis, we are more than a safe place for clients to rest their head at night; we are a holistic program aimed at healing and personal growth by providing advocacy and counseling in addition to a safe space. This means that from the moment a client come through our doors at the residential campus, they are greeted with empathy and kindness. I’ll never forget when one client made a remark to me that she felt overwhelmed with a feeling of safety and relief when I told her “I’m glad you’re here.” We are here to serve their specific needs, and in order to do that, we must learn about their history and what led them to us.

The hotline team is the heartbeat of our shelter. When a caller is in danger, hotline staff works with the caller to safety plan, provide resources and screen for danger in order to bring callers into shelter. Not only does our hotline team answer the phones, but they interact with clients on a day-to-day basis by providing direct support to clients. Our hotline is available 24-hours a day, 7 days a week at 214.946.HELP (4357).

If we have space at our residential facility and are able to take a caller into shelter, our hotline team reminds the caller to gather critical documents, makes transportation arrangements, explains expectations of shelter living and offers safety tips for leaving. When a client comes into shelter, the hotline team is responsible for providing the initial intake, which includes providing a tour, showing the client where they can get snacks, providing toiletry items and showing them their room. 

As an agency, we are constantly looking to ensure our services are aligned to clients’ needs and meeting those needs effectively. Upon a client’s initial meeting with staff, we ask them to take two surveys to gauge where they are in terms of trauma symptoms and how they view support in the community. We ask clients to fill out a PCL and MOVERS Assessment so that we can evaluate our programs. 

Clients enter shelter with a variety of trauma symptoms because of the abuse they’ve endured. Some of these symptoms include nightmares, feeling sad or hopeless, isolation, hyper awareness, feelings of fear, anxiety, fatigue, memory loss, disorientation and blame. The purpose of the PCL, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist, is for staff to see over time how, or if, the trauma symptoms decrease. 

We also ask clients to fill out a MOVERS Assessment, or Measures of Victim Empowerment Related to Safety Measures. This helps us as an agency see the impact of our work on survivors, so this assessment helps us reflect on whether our services help survivors in their goals. It is used “to provide evidence that program services and supports ‘work,’ or to facilitate a conversation between advocate and survivor about what is and is not going well for the survivor regarding safety.” (DVEvidenceProject.org)

We want to be transparent with new clients and ensure we have their informed consent. All clients who enter are explained to and asked to sign an Agreement for Services which outlines:

  • Staff qualifications
  • Client rights to be treated with dignity and respect 
  • Advocacy and Counseling Services
  • Confidentiality 

Each client is then assigned a “support team” which consists of an advocate, counselor and children’s counselor or family advocate if needed. Because it can be triggering and re-traumatizing to tell her story twice or to multiple people, one intake allows for the client’s support team to already have an idea of how to approach the client and best serve her. Although it may appear overly-thorough, our intake process helps us understand in what capacity a client needs our services and helps us tailor her shelter experience to meet her specific needs. The “support team” can then work with the client to come up with goals and create safe solutions for any hardship she may be facing. 

Written By Nikki Head, Assistant Director of Residential Services at Genesis Women’s Shelter and Support