Domestic Violence, Single Sex and Family Shelters all offer similar opportunities for the clients they serve. Shelters begin by offering the most basic of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: food and shelter. By establishing these essentials for people they serve, they are then able to begin the process of making internal change in addition to the external resources they provide. Sanctuary in shelters provides the unusual opportunity of bringing families together in what can become a strong community setting. When staff use Sanctuary to create and then reinforce the experience of community among individuals who often feel isolated and fearful, they are able to lay the groundwork for healing. It is through community that social wounds are healed, and shelters are uniquely prepared to use the temporary housing communities to build transferable skills that clients can take to create community when they find permanent homes.
Because shelters provide an experience of community, they have a special opportunity to provide the experience of democracy in a way that other settings may not. Democracy may be one of the most imperative experiences for those who have felt disempowered and disenfranchised in their lives. In addition, family shelters have the unique opportunity to intervene in the area of attachment, the building block of resilience, with very young children who come to programs with their mothers.