Beyond Shelter – Housing First

Because intimate partner abuse is the leading cause of homelessness for women and children CWS strives to provide support and services that promote housing stability. This philosophy, often referred to as the “Housing First Model” is used by many homeless shelters in the area, but CWS is the first in Oregon to apply it to a domestic violence shelter.

Traditional models of shelter require participants to meet certain criteria before they are supported in finding the right housing for their family. However, it is now commonly understood that access to stable housing is the fundamental cornerstone to self-sufficiency. This is also true for those families who want to leave their abuser but are not yet homeless. CWS community based staff work with participants to stabilize their housing through a variety of options getting them into new housing quickly or helping them retain the housing they are in currently.

After a family is adequately housed, services can continue through our community based program which includes: help in moving, counseling or support groups, support in acclimating to new neighborhoods, schools, work life etc., legal advocacy and support accessing other services available in the community.

The focus of the Housing First model is on rapid re-housing through advocacy with area landlords, access of community resources or support through housing assistance, allowing participants to quickly move from the shelter to a home. This first objective of stable housing has far-reaching effects.

CWS Executive Director, Melissa Erlbaum is asked to speak regularly at the national conferences about the need to implement a Housing First philosophy into domestic/sexual violence agencies, significant collaborations between housing and domestic violence service providers, and about the need for methodical change within the housing services system to address the unique needs of survivors.