Domestic violence shelters are vital to survivors, and offer far more than just a safe space to stay. Awareness and fundraising, lobbying on behalf of survivors, support with legal and medical matters, childcare, counseling, are all things a properly funded shelter can offer and more.
The sad fact is that most local shelters are underfunded and reliant on individual donations. Supporting your local shelter is important. Aside from calling your local shelter directly and asking what their specific needs are, here is a list of things you can do:
Donate directly to the shelter
Big, one-off donations are great, but so are small, regular donations. A couple of dollars a month may seem like nothing, but as charity donations fluctuate throughout the year (especially corporate donations), having a regulars donations are valued.
Get your kids involved
Children at shelters have often moved away from the people they know, and asking them to come along on trips with your kids is a great way to help them make new friends. Likewise, when birthdays come around, organizing a party at the shelter or a kid-friendly venue will make a big difference.
Offering to help with childcare is also a fantastic way to help and to give their parents a break, as many shelters don’t have the funding for full-time childcare.
Bake delicious things
This is a way you can help the staff as well as the residents: baked goods are one of the easiest ways to let someone know you’re thinking of them.
Build fundraising into your routine
Fundraising events are brilliant and provide shelters with much needed revenue, but if you’re unable to commit to a big event, there are many other options:
- Ask your local grocery store if they can have a donation box by the cashier or store entrance
- Speak to your church about encouraging members to make a monthly donation.
- Are there any fundraising events at your children’s school? Ask if the staff if a percentage of the money could be donated to your local shelter, bearing in mind that children are affected by domestic violence as well.
- Most businesses can deduct charitable contributions, so check with your boss and ask your friends to speak to their managers about a regular corporate donation.
Think about the survivors
Survivors of domestic violence rarely have time to pack before they leave their abusive partners, and even if they do have time . . . could you fit your whole life into a couple of bags? Shelter residents don't always arrive with everything they need. Donations of clothes, toiletries, books, toys, and electronics are all appreciated.
Offer your time and skills
A small paid staff with often overworked and unpaid volunteers run most shelters. They cover duties from administrative tasks to hospital appointments and court dates. Offering to run a series of workshops or classes in your area of expertise is a great way to help, a few examples:
- Basic lessons in bookkeeping/budget (many of the residents will have had someone else controlling their finances for years)
- Social media security and best practices (domestic violence survivors frequently have ex-partners monitoring their online presence)
- Yoga classes
- Craft workshops, especially during the holidays when funding for presents might be low
- Swimming lessons for the children staying at the shelter
- Second language class
- Resume workshops
Help survivors get ready to work
Many survivors of domestic violence will have left their job or have been prevented from working by controlling partners. Survivors report feeling isolated, and a regular shift at their local coffee shop or a couple of afternoons of filing are a relatively low-pressure way for them to make new connections.
Include them in your will and/or life insurance
It may sounds a bit heavy, but leaving a small bequest to your local shelter in your will can make a big difference. The Wall Street Journal details the benefits of giving to charity here. You can also ask the bequest be used for a specific project, such as to redecorate the residents' rooms or to help pay for a full-time member of the staff.