Thinking creatively about physical space can help eliminate rules and conflict by solving the source of the problems. Below is a list of ideas from programs around the state that have helped minimize the need for rules.
Food, medications, and valuables
- food lockers
- locking safes in rooms for medications and valuables
- individual refrigerators
- individual apartments instead of communal living
- one family per room instead of multiple
- private bathrooms
- at least one room with private bath to accommodate older boys
- TV’s in each room rather than one communal TV in the living room
- multiple places to watch TV
- plenty of any hotly sought after toy
- multiple couches and comfortable chairs
- multiple phones and TTY machines
Security & entry after staff leave
- hotel style keys for entry to the shelter
- real estate lock box for entry to the shelter
- fingerprint technology for shelter entry
- night security guard
Cooking, cleaning, and chores
- hire a cook to make dinner
- hire cleaners to do deep cleaning
- hire a housekeeper to clean and organize
- have adequate storage, shelving, and closet organizers
- have a safe, outdoor play area with no street access
- ensuring good sight lines between play areas and where the mothers are most likely to be
- have a safe way for mothers to smoke and supervise their children at the same time
Making physical fixes work
“What can I do if these ideas don’t work for our space?”
Some of these ideas won’t apply to all spaces. Ask yourself, what ideas do apply? What programs in Washington State are similar in size and structure to mine? Can I call them and ask how they do house meetings, meals, etc.?
Many programs have worked out space and program structure while planning a move, new building, or remodel of their current shelters. Programs report that thoughtful planning of space while considering how to minimize rules makes a space that is more comfortable for everyone.
“How can I get the people I work with to go for this? We are all so busy!”
Shelter work is complex and can be stressful. Sometimes it feels like we are operating in survival mode. A challenge of working in circumstances where there is high need and limited resources make it seem easier to simplify in ways that may become punitive to survivors. Ask yourself, how much time do you take resolving conflict around rules or chores? Some programs have found that minimizing rules has freed up more time, and greatly reduced staff burnout. Change takes time and financial commitment up front, but may save time and money in the long run.
“I want to make some changes around rules, but I have more questions. What now?”
Visit our Shelter Support information for shelter specific training, technical assistance, model protocols, articles, etc.