Safe at Home
Snapshot View of Practice
Rowan House Society’s Safe at Home project is an 18-week voluntary program designed to be an alternative approach to helping families experiencing domestic violence and abuse. The Safe at Home program provides the following options for clients: a cool-down facility, individual sessions, and group sessions. The program provides education and awareness, individual case planning, support in developing an accountability plan, and navigation of community resources.
Name of Shelter
Type of Shelter
What is Safe at Home
The Safe at Home project is an 18-week voluntary program designed to be an alternative approach to helping families experiencing domestic violence and abuse. The program provides the following options for clients: a cool-down facility, individual sessions, and group sessions.
Safe at Home provides education and awareness, individual case planning, support in developing an accountability plan, and navigation of community resources. This can include parenting classes, employment or financial aid services, and anger management workshops. Rowan House Society provides clients with trauma-informed individual and group sessions that support their needs and goals. The group sessions focus on the importance of healthy relationships and recognizing and changing unhealthy or abusive behaviour. In collaboration with the Outreach Support Worker, the client creates an accountability plan that shifts responsibility to the person using abuse.
Safe at Home also connects impacted families to local resources and supports to facilitate safety and healing for everyone.
“It is important to have the person using abuse engaged in the process. Engagement creates opportunities to further assess the individual’s required intervention and to ensure accountability is addressed.”
Rowan House Society is an innovative agency that implements out-of-the-box ideas to support individuals experiencing domestic violence and abuse. Rowan House had an opportunity through a Women and Gender Equality Canada grant to pilot the Safe at Home project, which flips the script and shifts the responsibility to the person who is using abuse. “A Place of My Own”: Survivors’ Perspectives on the Safe at Home Housing Model, a research report from Woman ACT, states that individuals experiencing abuse prefer not to move into emergency shelters andto remain in their homes if safe to do so. Staying in an emergency shelter can sometimes disrupt routines, impacting individuals’ support systems, and there can be limited access to safe and affordable housing. The Safe at Home model has been implemented in Australia, the UK, and a few other European countries.
Key milestones of this project:
Rowan House Society was able to secure project funding from Women and Gender Equality Canada to pilot this project for four years starting in 2019. A blueprint of the Safe at Home project will be developed at the end of Year Four and will be available for other agencies to implement across Canada.
How does the program work
Clients can be referred to the program through a local community agency, children’s services, police, probation, or self-referral through the Safe at Home website. The team hosts quarterly meetings with stakeholders such as police, lawyers, children’s services, and community partners to conduct case consultations and receive expertise on how to further support the individuals and families they are working with to improve and further develop community relationships.
When the Outreach Support Worker receives a referral, the client is contacted directly to assess if they have been using unhealthy or abusive behaviours and if they want to develop healthier relationship skills. If the program is appropriate to support their needs, the Outreach Support Worker will schedule an intake meeting and further discuss the client’s needs and goals.
There is rolling admission into the program, allowing clients to access services and join the groups the same week that they apply. Clients are enrolled in group sessions that discuss the difference between unhealthy and healthy relationship behaviour and how to use new tools and skills to create healthy environments.
The group meets twice a week for eight weeks, then once a week for ten weeks. When all the group sessions have been completed, clients can continue with a monthly accountability group to ensure they continue to put their learnings into practice and refresh healthy thinking patterns.
There is an option for clients to take a 3 to a 5-day cool-down period in separate accommodations within their community. During this time, the client works with the Outreach Support Worker to find alternate living arrangements such as a rental or staying with family or friends. This allows the person experiencing abuse and any children to remain in their own homes, with routines and support systems intact.
During the cool-down period, the Outreach Support Worker assists the client to develop an accountability plan that shifts the responsibility onto the person that has been using abuse.
In the accountability plan, the client explores the following:
- emotional distress and their actions
- how to interrupt their unhealthy or abusive behaviours
- where to go when they are feeling elevated
- how to access support
The program also includes safety checks for the person who is experiencing abuse to ensure they are remaining safe in their own home and have access to support and services as well. The family can be referred to Rowan House Society’s outreach program if they are looking for education or support.
“Programs that support individuals using abuse are vital to ensure violence and abuse are addressed where it begins. Working from a family systems approach allows us to support safer families and healthier communities.”
What is the impact of this program
In the early stages of the project, the Safe at Home facility provided in-house support to approximately five clients. Rowan House Society now offers all programming online to better reach clients concerned about their unhealthy or abusive behaviour throughout its large service area. To date, they have served approximately 55 individuals throughout Southern Alberta.
“It’s encouraging to see the light bulb moments when you are working with clients, and you see that they realize they have been using unhealthy behaviour and the impacts to themselves and their loved ones.”
Challenges in Implementing
- Launching the pilot project during the pandemic was challenging to navigate.
- Innovative projects that use new strategies or alternative approaches take time to gain initial engagement. Rowan House Society worked hard to provide awareness and education about the benefits of this new approach to partners and the community through community presentations, stakeholder meetings, and training. They continue to provide information to their partners and community to address the importance of the shift in practice. They recognize the importance of working from a community perspective because the community is vital to providing support and engagement in helping families who are experiencing domestic violence and abuse. They ensure support to develop knowledge and understanding to assist in the change process.
Tips for those who wish to do something similar
- It is important that all individuals who are accessing support are treated with respect, empathy, and compassion. When domestic violence and abuse are present, working from a family systems approach is key to enhancing family safety and stopping the violence and abuse where it begins.
- Community support and engagement from members are vital to ending domestic violence and abuse, which can be achieved through presentations, conversations, and training. Through these supports, community leaders or champions are formed to support the cause of ending domestic violence and abuse in their community. Additionally, partnering with other domestic abuse shelters, children’s services, the legal sector, and law enforcement help engage individuals at pivotal times when they are ready to accept services, create healthier behaviours, and take accountability for their actions and behaviours.