The Village Model

A New Approach to Shelter

Over the past several years, the confidential CWS emergency shelter has developed an innovative model designed to break the isolation of domestic violence by creating a community of women from many different backgrounds with a shared experience. The Village Model provides a supportive environment where survivors can step away from their current home life, regain their strength, and individually shape the ways they want to move forward in the world. It is a place where participants are considered unconditionally as experts in their own self‑determination.

The Village model creates a community where survivors can reconnect with their strengths and get the support they need to move forward. Several case managers work with participants on a daily basis at shelter and continue to work with them through their transition into housing over the long-term. Our shelter also staffs a mental health counselor who specializes in working with children and families – both during their shelter stay and as they transition into a new home.

Inspired by age-old values of fellowship, the Village Model integrates shelter staff with individuals and families residing in the shelter community. All members of the community, staff and participants alike, support and communicate with one another in a way that gives survivors a different experience from the confusing and hurtful living situation experienced with their partners. The Village Model provides a safe place to practice communication and boundary-setting skills, and creates a culture of trust across all participants. The result is that participants feel trusted to make their own life choices and to do what it takes to maintain a family life within their norms.

Since the implementation of the Village Model, CWS has witnessed the development of a rich and diverse community that had not existed within our shelter in the past. We now regularly serve a wide range of languages at any given time, those needing service animals, and women struggling with mental health or addiction issues—all in one community with great success. CWS has seen a 65% increase in clients identifying as having a disability, a percentage that continues to rise—another population that is better served by the Village Model.

We have also seen a dramatic reduction in shelter evictions. Our increased flexibility and accommodations allow CWS greater ability to serve survivors who continue to face challenges with mental health issues, addiction and recovery or struggles with communal living. In the past, many of the survivors may have been excluded from community centered services, but since 2007, when CWS first began creating the Village Model, evictions have been reduced by 95%. The shelter program is now better able to meet the diverse needs of survivors and provide a more successful experience.