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Transitional Housing
Tool Kit

Program Development

We are the epitome of our ancestors. They are right here; I sit at the table with them regularly. Whatever I do, I have to do it the right way because they’re watching me, guiding me.
Juanita Espinosa, Turtle Mountain Ojibway

Five phases of program development

Bullseye ICON
Pre-program – Developing the idea, figuring out the need for the program, securing resources.
• What is transitional housing?
• Does the community need one?
• How will we do it?
• Create our vision?
Puzzle piece ICON
Year 1
– Now that we received funding, what do we do? We are often filled with excitement about the possibilities.
• Put in place policies;
• Refine initial program design;
• Start serving survivors.
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Year 1 to 3
– We have put in place the core program components that are culturally centered.
• Recovery from violence;
• Safety;
• Housing advocacy;
• Economic advocacy.
Stacked blocks ICON
Year 2 to 5
– We built our community partnerships to strengthen our resources and supports for survivors. Our program components have expanded to provide a more responsive range of options.
Light Bulb ICON
– We are engaged in regular reflection and action. Looking at how things are going and making adjustments to the needs of our program on all levels, ensuring we are serving everyone in meaningful life-changing ways.
Programs grow out of ideas and if the ideas are strong enough, meaning they are responsive to the community needs, they generally will be forward moving with the right conditions, and the path and pace of the movement can be somewhat predictable. There are factors that influence where a program is at in its life cycle. These include the age of the program, changes and emerging trends within the field of work, the program’s size, its social environment, and its primary leader’s characteristics. (Simon & Donovan, 2002)

While the program is generally forward moving, its path and growth can be somewhat predictable. The speed it grows is unique to the program and its environmental circumstances. A program in one community cannot directly be compared to another due to these unique circumstances. One program can move faster or slower in its growth cycle. At each stage, there are opportunities for the organization to regress or progress. (Simon & Donovan, 2002) There are distinct phases within the program’s life, but the boundaries between the stages aren’t always obvious.

At each phase of development, significant events take place. The occurrence of significant, and sometimes critical, events (such as the hiring of the advocate, the loss of tribal leadership support, or a reduction in funding) within each phase can increase progress or hinder progress.

Let’s walk through phases of program development.
Bullseye ICON

This is the pre-program phase. At this time, within the community or an organization, talk begins to evolve into an idea. The idea starts to take form and can be visualized by one or a few people. It is at this time that the idea gets defined and shaped. It is important to develop a clear understanding of
what transitional housing is.

An important part of this stage is figuring out what the needs are within the community for the Transitional Housing Program. This can be examined by looking at some of the information your domestic violence and/or sexual assault program may already have. Data such as numbers of survivors that request housing, survivors that are returning to their abuser because of a lack of housing, availability of housing in your area, kinds of needs survivors are asking for that are not able to be met in a short period of time, and so forth.

Additionally, you will want to also develop your vision for the program.
  • What does tribally specific transitional housing look like for your tribal community?
Once the foundation of the idea is formulated, it will be time to identify resources to support the transitional housing program. This will include funding for the program but also as important are the community resources available to support the program such as access to landlords and housing, social service resources, behavioral health resources, cultural supports than can be offered, and economic and financial resources to name a few.
Puzzle piece ICON

Often times, at this stage, a new program looks to neighboring programs doing similar work to adapt their policies and practices. This is a great idea because, of course, why reinvent the wheel. However, it’s important to recognize that the program or programs you might be looking at are not an exact fit, they may be a mature program with years of experience, they might be a larger program, they might be a non-native program, or they might be guided by different funding sources that have different requirements or rules, and serving a different population in need.

Borrow their ideas but be sure to take the time to consider how their ideas fit within what you want to do. This is a critical time to ask your team, “how does this fit within our vision and values as a tribal/native community?”

Now that you got funded, what comes next? This may be a time filled with excitement mixed with a little bit of apprehension. Securing funding is a significant milestone in building your program, and now you have resources to move to the next step. This is the time to put in place the programmatic structure. This includes providing more detail to your program vision and framework.

You will need to describe the following:
  • Expand on your initial program design;
  • Describe the culturally specific support services you are providing to transitional housing participants.
  • Include the four core areas: Safety; Recovery from Violence; Housing Advocacy; and Economic Advocacy.
Two women ICON

The program has been operating for a bit of time and you have in place all four core program components: Safety; Recovery from Violence; Housing Advocacy; and Economic Advocacy.

At this phase, the core of the program is stabilized, and plans are emerging on how to enhance the range of options in each area.

One program began its Financial Advocacy by providing education about financial literacy, budgeting and working with the jobs program getting assistance with developing resumes and job searches for participants. When they stabilized that part of the program and staff capacity had increased, they began working with the tribal college to help participants access college level classes and programs to build more opportunities for employability.

Staffing is stable and has been expanding both their knowledge and skills to expand the core program components. The community is knowledgeable of the kinds of programming available through your transitional housing program.

After the program had been in operation for 3 years, one of the advocates had a vision about creating a space for traditional healing options, a place where survivors could come together. And an Indigenous Healing Garden was created to hold education groups, cultural activities and gatherings, and have a space grow traditional medicines. This would not have been possible when we started but it was time, and it came together.

Stacked blocks ICON

At this phase our program has developed some maturity; we’ve built the critical partnerships that are true collaborations. Early on, we had relationships where we learned about each of the community resources and was able to make good referrals. Now our program has evolved beyond just making referrals to working closely with the community partners that are critical to supporting the program. The collaborations provide important work, expanding the services and resources available to program participants enhancing the quality of the program and providing a more seamless response, thereby taking advantage of the critical time survivors have to move from surviving to meaningfully thriving in their lives.

Finding housing for participants is less challenging as the time invested in developing landlord relationships is paying off and able to provide housing that will truly turn into long-term permanent housing for the survivors.
Light bulb ICON

The program recognizes the practice of regular reflection and action. Planning a program has many unknowns. It is important to take time periodically to look at the work to date, examine the direction the program is headed and give thought to whether this is where the program wanted to be, or is headed in the desired direction. Looking at how things are going and making adjustments to the needs of our program on all levels, ensuring we are serving everyone in meaningful life-changing ways.

Revisioning is a time when we look back at what we have been doing, as we ask ourselves critical questions. We do this while still being forward facing, wanting to make adjustments to ensure we are headed in the right direction we want to go.
There are distinct phases of program development, but the boundaries between them aren’t always obvious. (Simon & Donovan, 2002) While it is predominantly forward moving, it is not always linear.

Staff leadership and staff skill is critical to the success of the program. At times advocates get caught up with priorities around working with survivors and do not want to take the time to expand their knowledge base and skill set. Staff development is an important part of moving from basic programming to enhanced programming. Moving forward cannot happen without the intentional investment in staff capacity to do the work.

The Program Coordinator role is also critical. The Program Coordinator must hold the vision and work to develop the staff to work in ways that reflect the vision and values of your program. This helps to ensure the program is providing the kinds of advocacy, responses, and supports that are provided in a way that is reflective of the program values.

Indigenous leaders practiced strategic humility. They understood that the first step to power involves denying it for yourself, subordinating the self-centered urge for personal gain to the collective benefit. In doing so, a leader becomes a magnet for power, attracting support from those searching for a means to express their own energy and resolve. Their untapped, often substantial potential brings momentum and cohesion to the movement. (Murphy, 1993)

  • A leader must practice strategic humility, subordinating egocentricity to become a magnet for attracting and investing power.
  • A leader must share power to increase power, investing power to achieve a collective capacity greater than the sum of the individuals on whom it is bestowed.
  • A leader must prepare for their people for power by leading through example, never asking someone to do what you yourself won’t do.
  • A leader must express power through culture, maintaining the legitimacy to use and direct power as needed. (Murphy, 1993)

Hexagon: Harmony and Balance, Respect, Reflective, Contribute to well-beling of tribe and community
Housing and Homeless Services TTA: This project is supported by Grant No. 2015-TA-AX-K069  awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Voluntary Services

Someday I might grow old and my girls will be able to know where I came from. Hopefully they will say, "My mother taught me;” it still stands up here. I'll never forget it.
Lena Sooktis, Northern Cheyenne
Tribal transitional housing programs that are funded by the Office on Violence against Women are required to provide services that are voluntary. While this can be a challenge for many programs to understand, it is a critical part of how to work with survivors in a manner that is survivor guided.
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The Voluntary Services approach is based on the notion that participation in services should be voluntary and not a condition of housing or receiving other services. This approach emphasizes respectful and welcoming behavior in all aspects of the work. Services are driven by the needs, wants, and individual goals of survivors.
Through providing voluntary services, we must consider sovereignty and what that means to us as indigenous people.

At the very heart of voluntary services is the sovereignty of survivors. Sovereignty refers to Nations and also to the people as well. Native women were considered sovereign and self-governing. Historically, native women had the right to their own children, the right to divorce, and their own possessions. In contrast, European women had no voice in government or military matters (Artichoker, 2000). As we think about what an indigenous woman’s sovereignty is, a survivor holds her own unique path in life; without fear, but with freedom. She owns her own self-governance, maintaining the ability to make her own decisions. She can and is supported to speak freely for herself, in her own way defining her own reality and her own direction in life (Sacred Circle, 2001).

They own their own self-governance, maintaining the ability to make their own decisions.
When advocating for indigenous women who have experienced domestic violence, sexual violence, dating violence, stalking or sex trafficking, there are five key points an advocate will incorporate into their work.

Five Key Points
  1. The survivor’s personal sovereignty;
  2. Working in a manner that demonstrates respect for her;
  3. Creating an environment with dialogue;
  4. Open communication takes place; and
  5. Working in partnership with the survivor to support the direction the survivor has chosen.
(Ybanez, 2017).

Participant survivors coming to the program arrive with no requirements to engage in the program services we offer. We are not mandating any types of services.

This does not mean we are not offering services, we in fact are offering the full range of services and we build engagement between the program staff and participants, so participants recognize we are there to be helpful as they envision their lives.
  • Creating an environment with dialogue.
  • Open communication takes place.
  • Working in partnership with the survivor to support the direction the survivor has chosen.
We can work through a full range of trauma services in a way that recognizes everyone is carrying an impact from the violence they experienced; as well they may also be carrying an impact from historical and mutigenerational trauma.

Over successive generations, American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) people have experienced a series of traumatic assaults that have had enduring consequences for families and communities. Extensive literature documents these assaults, which have included community massacres, genocidal policies, pandemics from the introduction of new diseases, forced relocation, forced removal of children though Indian boarding school policies, and prohibition of spiritual and cultural practices (Stannard, 1992; Thornton, 1987) Although American Indian and Alaska Native peoples have demonstrated enormous resilience in light of such a history, these events have had a toll, not only on individual mental health but also on the healthy functioning of families and AIAN social structures as a whole (Evans-Campbell, 2008).

We will meet each person where they are at that moment. We recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma and how that may impact how they live their lives. We must also recognize how historical and multigenerational trauma is intertwined within this current trauma we are responding to. They are not separate. Our role is to work with this household to help address the trauma that is impacting them in the aftermath of violence.

We work from an approach that recognizes that each person has a right moment for creating change in their lives. We help facilitate a means for each person to engage in examining their lives and creating a new vision living without violence and imagining the possibilities of where they want their life to go. As advocates, we will support them as they walk forward in seeing their possibilities and helping them to recognize the options available to them. We help them to see themselves. Recognizing what their barriers are while building their sense of personal safety.

Adopting a trauma-informed approach is not accomplished through any single particular technique or checklist. It requires constant attention, caring awareness, sensitivity, and possibly a cultural change at an organizational level (SAMHSA, 2018). These principles may be generalizable across multiple types of settings, although terminology and application may be setting- or sector-specific.

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Safety. When we consider basic needs, safety is a critical part of addressing basic needs. If a person is not safe, it is difficult to imagine a future. Our work must work to strengthen the safety of those we are working with, helping survivors to develop strategies for safety that provides security while also empowering them to make their own choice.

Trustworthiness and Transparency. Trauma informed approaches that build trust come with respect as well as gentleness. It is important for participants to come to a place of feeling trust in those they are working with; transparency is part of that trust. Being transparent can help to provide some predictability, and security in the working relationship.

Peer Support. One major impact of abuse comes from isolation. Peer support can provide opportunities to learn from each other while also minimizing the negative impact from isolation.

Collaboration and Mutuality. We are working together as a team. An advocate cannot do their work without the relationship and partnership with survivors they are working with. If we see things happening in their lives that that are hard or difficult in their lives, we work to help them see the signs that we see. We are working to help stabilize this household; part of our job is to work with the survivors so that they can hear what we have to say.

Empowerment, Voice and Choice. Central to our work is to strengthen and support the experiences and autonomy of survivors.

Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues.
All issues around culture, historical experiences/historical contexts, and gender issues are rooted in each person. Our work must be rooted in it as well to work holistically with survivors.

The services that we offer are not forced on anyone. The process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one's life and claiming one's rights comes from survivor sovereignty, survivor autonomy.

Housing and Homeless Services TTA: This project is supported by Grant No. 2015-TA-AX-K069  awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.


Confidentiality and privilege are key to keeping battered women safe and represent the cornerstones of all successful advocacy and shelter programs.

At its most basic level, confidentiality equals safety. In order to maximize and safeguard confidentiality, Advocates must be familiar with a variety of laws, policies and requirements. (Field; Kunce; Goelman; Hart; Lee; Murphy; Tolhurst; Valente, 2007)

Here is a shorthand way to distinguish between privacy, confidentiality and privilege (Alicia L. Aiken, 2015):

  • Privacy is a personal choice whether to disclose information,
  • Confidentiality is a responsibility to protect someone else’s choices about disclosure, and
  • Privilege is a legal rule prohibiting the disclosure of private information against someone’s will.

Sharing information about a specific (survivor) threatens their autonomy and may threaten their safety, as well as their confidence in the domestic violence Advocate and program (Field, et al., 2007).
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Advocates must remember that the information belongs to the survivor and, subject to limited exceptions specified by law; they must consent before their information can be shared with anyone else (Field, et al., 2007).
  • What exactly do I promise when I promise confidentiality?
  • Do I actually promise that what the client tells me will be known to no one but myself?
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Agency Policies should spell out clearly who does and does not have access to various kinds of information. Those having limited access must receive formal training on the principles of confidentiality and related personnel policies.

Email. Most are unencrypted and thus are the online equivalent to a postcard written in pencil. As each email travels to its intended destination, it traverses an untold number of servers and can be intercepted and viewed by virtually anyone with the proper technological know-how.

Document Storage. Record storage is governed by a variety of laws to protect information and to hold that information for a period of time. Records should be stored in a secured location with limited access by personnel; there should be short-term and long-term storage protocols; electronic information storage protocols are needed to ensure and limit technology access. And finally, disposal of confidential documents should be disposed in a secure and timely manner.

Staff exchange of information

If I don’t hear it, I can’t leak it

Staff working within the same organization does NOT have a right to information by virtue of working at the same organization/department. There should be rigid boundaries between programs.
Often we learn that a tribal program is housed within behavioral health or human services departments and the department director wants to engage. In case management of domestic violence survivors with other programs such as Indian Child Welfare Act staff or Alcohol and Drug because there might be some mutual benefit for the programs to bring their resources together for this survivor.
Information can NOT be shared unless there has been an informed signed, specific, time limited release of information provided by the survivor. In that case, only the information designated in that release can be shared.

Additionally, within the same program, there are still limits to information sharing. Staff have a need to know certain information to perform their job may have limited access to the information needed, but no more. If a member of staff is seeking information from another member of staff, then it should only be sought from someone with legitimate access to that information and with the authority to disclose
Housing and Homeless Services TTA: This project is supported by Grant No. 2015-TA-AX-K069  awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Engaged Advocacy

Envisioning the Future, Dreaming Again

Transitional housing provides a unique opportunity to build a foundation that will support the survivor and their family as they move forward in their lives.

In the aftermath of violence, a person can find it difficult to envision their future. After repeated abuses, dealing with the trauma of physical and emotional abuse, carrying the burdens of historical and multigenerational trauma, tomorrow has not been thought about for a very long time. In order to envision their futures, survivors must first be able to see themselves again, believe in themselves again, and believe there are options and possibilities for them.

According to Google Dictionary, empowerment is the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one's life and claiming one's rights. This work will take time. The Advocate role will be to work with the survivor and their family in a very intentional way to support the survivor in identifying options and developing their sense of empowerment.
Empowerment is the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one's life and claiming one's rights.
Each person is unique in their own way. Their experience with violence, the frequency and severity of it, the impact of trauma, and the resiliency they each have will vary from individual to individual. No one can judge how hard it is for each survivor; only the survivor can figure that out. On this journey, expectations must be realistic to survivors’ timing, energy, and capabilities.

The process of moving past the violence and its impact can be daunting, overwhelming and at times, the path can completely disappear. The Advocate is a guide and can help hold hands and walk with the survivor through the darkness, helping them to find the direction they want to head in.

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Engaging in Dialogue and Critical Thinking

An important tool an Advocate can use is dialogue.

Authentic dialogue is consistent with indigenous historical contexts. Being able to be fully engaged with another person or group of people, listening to each voice and perspective, is traditional; it is being in the Circle. While sitting in the Circle, truth is spoken and together each person combines to carry a collective truth, a new perspective that becomes a collective vision; this occurs when each person names his or her world and collectively describes the world.

Dialogue is described as recognizing that everyone has a view of the world, a perspective, and that each person can expand their view by remaining open to other people's worldview (Sloan, 2006). It is quite similar to the description of dialogue made by Paulo Freire in Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970/1997). Freire states that dialogue is "[an] encounter between women and men who name the world, it must not be a situation where some name on behalf of others" (1970/1997). Both emphasize that each person has a valuable experience, perspective and voice to bring to the process. Participation means dialogue. Dialogue is based on people sharing their own perception of a problem, offering their opinions and ideas, and having the opportunity to make decisions or recommendations.

As an Advocate, being able to engage in dialogue with survivors in their journeys offers a meaningful opportunity for survivors to reclaim their voice and to truly and fully be heard. This experience will strengthen the survivor’s ability to recognize their choices and fully engage in making choice in their best interest.
Dialogue Requires Faith

“Dialogue requires an intense faith in human beings; their power to make and remake, to create and recreate; faith that the vocation to be fully human is the birthright of all people, not the privilege of an elite.

Founded on love, humility and faith, dialogue becomes horizontal relationship of mutual trust. Trust is established by dialogue; it cannot exist unless the words of both parties coincide with their actions.

Nor can dialogue exist without hope, hope is rooted in our human incompleteness, from which we move out in constant search, a search which can be carried out only in communion with other people. As long as I fight, then I am moved by hope, and if I fight with hope, then I can wait.

Finally true dialogue cannot exist unless it involves critical thinking, thinking which sees reality as a process, in transformation, thinking which does not separate itself from action but constantly involves itself in the real struggle without fear of the risks involved.”

Paulo Freire (1970/1997)

Moving from Crisis Response

Transitional housing is not a crisis program. Importantly, survivors are in a process of moving away from living in crisis to developing a solid foundation as they move forward in their lives. Advocate will be a valuable part of helping survivors lay that foundation. Many Advocates will need to learn how to work in ways that are not in crisis, and to be the calm, stable presence.

This is a time to slow down and to think about what is important. The chart below can offer some assistance with thinking about what is a crisis and what is not (Czarto, 2012). The Advocate being able to make this distinction is important in helping the survivor learn how to make this distinction.
Boundaries and Limits

While an Advocate is engaged in working closely with a survivor, it is important to have boundaries and limits. Advocates often talk about how they work to address every need of the survivor; in a perfect world, it would be wonderful if an Advocate could be so completely available. This is not realistic for Advocates.

Without healthy boundaries and limits, an Advocate can burnout, a survivor may become dependent on the Advocate to the point that the Advocate loses their personal relationships.

Boundaries are guidelines, rules, or limits people set in order to create a healthy sense of personal space. Boundaries can be physical or emotional in nature, and they help distinguish the desires, needs, and preferences of one person from another (Good Therapy, 2017). Survivors have had their personal boundaries violated because of the violence. They have lost their sense of personal space, emotional and mental space as well as spiritual space. The Advocate – survivor relationship models ways for the survivor to restore and reclaim their boundaries and identify what they limits are.
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Housing and Homeless Services TTA: This project is supported by Grant No. 2015-TA-AX-K069  awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Indigenous-based Management

Recognizing the good, not just in one's own personal circumstances, but in the world, makes anything possible. When I am asked about the important characteristics of leadership, being of good, positive mind is at the top of my list. If a leader can focus on the meritorious characteristics of other people and try to play to their strengths as well as find value in even the most difficult situation, she can inspire hope and faith in others and motivate them to move forward.

Wilma Mankiller, Cherokee

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The Circle has become the closest representation of the Mystery of Mysteries, for its sacred form symbolizes oneness, wholeness and totality. It is the path that is without beginning and without end. It is eternal. It encompasses all things: beginnings and movement, closure and completeness, fulfillment and fruition.... When we become part of the Circle, a sense of connectedness and awareness is created.
(Horn, 2000)

In our leadership, we have the responsibility to carry forward the spirit of our ancestors. It is not enough to be a program on Tribal lands, operated by the Tribe or designed by Native people to ensure it carries our Tribal values and beliefs. We carry a history of assimilation and oppression that impacts each of us as Native people in different ways. We have been placed in a world where we have adapted many mainstream practices that may have obscured our abilities to see how we might create something from within the vision and teachings of our elders and our ancestors.

We have an opportunity to create projects that carry the vision passed on to us from a long history of strength and beauty. A history that holds women as sacred and children as gifts from the creator. A history that recognizes and honors our interconnected relationships.

Tribal programs developing domestic violence and sexual assault responses can benefit from engaging intentionally in examining the historical, cultural and political context for their work while sharing their beliefs, their values, their principles and their complete perspectives from within the Circle while also valuing the same of everyone sitting in the Circle.

Strategic thinkers consider an exploration with depth, digging deeper and deeper, seeking a larger or broader understanding.

Seeking the bigger picture is not always a neat process; it may be messy with some levels of discomfort as people challenge themselves and others to stretch to understand different perspectives and views. Engaged in the Circle, strategic thinkers enjoy the benefit of each other’s authenticity and truthfulness. Programs are not always used to experiencing this authenticity and truthfulness and may find the process awkward, however, it requires practice to be able to stay present and fully participate in a Circle relationship with each other. The often chaotic and nonlinear process can lead to transformative learning, challenging people’s frames of reference and thus, enable them to undergo a total change of individual perspectives and opinions.

Thinking strategically, sitting in the Circle in tribal programs can go far to aid in their design and work well to encompass tribal identities. (Sloan, 2006) identifies five critical attributes to thinking strategically as having (1) an imagination, (2) a broad perspective, (3) the ability to juggle competing, incomplete and inaccurate information, (4) the ability to deal with things over that which there is no control and (5) to have an adamant desire to win. (Sloan, 2006) While having an adamant desire to win does not fit within core tribal values, in its place, having the attribute of an adamant desire for success can fit.

To facilitate the development of each of these five attributes, helping tribal programs consider how to create an environment that fosters dialogue and institutionalizes a consistent time to reflect, can support strategic learning. As well, tribal advocate program managers can include a broader group of people to explore strategy. They can support the creation of opportunity for individuals to come together in the Circle to name the world.

Critical thinking is one valuable tool we can turn to. It is a powerful, liberating force. (Wilson & Yellow Bird, 2005) Critical thinking requires us to be carefully considering and analyzing all possibilities that may be presented, ignored, trivialized, or censored in any argument, opinion, or what are considered to be “the facts” (2005).
The process of critical thinking is to seek the answers to a series of questions. Digging deeper. How did this come to be? Who benefits from this?

Relative centered approach
Creating a relative-centered approach is meaningful to building responses that are centered within our indigenous values and belief systems.

We frequently think about making sure we are working with participants in ways that support them and show them respect. While this is true, we also want to carry this across all aspects of our work.
  • With program participants;
  • With our co-workers;
  • With community partnerships; and
  • With the community as a whole.
In our role as Program Coordinator or as Advocate, we can often decide how we are going to do this work. We get to determine whether we will build our people not see them or embrace our relatives.

Through the history of oppression that indigenous people experienced and are still impacted today, it can be Internalized in ourselves and work to harm the kind ourselves and the environment of empowerment and respect we are working so hard to build. For those reasons, we will want to take time to examine the impact of oppression. Are we building people up or are we pulling them down? Are we truly living within our indigenous values or are we operating through micro and macro aggressions?

Paulo Freire talks about cultivating critical consciousness through the process of collective meaning to unveil the nature of the system that creates and maintains inequitable societies. He proposes a rigorous process of dialogue, pedagogy, grounded in an examination of individual and collective daily life, experiences of power relationships and the beliefs and fears that motivate behaviors. (Meehan, 2018)

According to the book The Genius of Sitting Bull, he knew that the first step on the path to leadership is a private one, in which a leader solves the great paradox that lies at the heart of leadership success: self-fulfillment comes from service to others (Murphy, 1993). That step requires a heroic effort to confront and overcome selfishness, blind ambition, and a natural tendency to ignore the unpleasant realities of a situation.

The infusion of commitment requires seven distinct steps:
  1. Establish the right context within which people can grasp;
  2. Inspire hope;
  3. Build collective understanding;
  4. Develop a plan of action;
  5. Assemble the team and prepare to carry out the plan;
  6. Implement the plan; and
  7. Evaluate team performance for continuous improvement. (Murphy, 1993)
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All leaders must instill trust in their people. Without trust, commitment will die and the community will lose the constancy of purpose that strengthens the group bond. (Murphy, 1993)
The bottom line here is that each person can decide what kind of leader they want to be. To be most helpful working within our indigenous communities, we will want to build on indigenous values, not creating environments that hold people over each other in power dominance practices but instead work to build our interconnected relationships centered around out indigenous teachings or respect, honor and integrity.
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Housing and Homeless Services TTA: This project is supported by Grant No. 2015-TA-AX-K069  awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Safety Planning

Safety planning is pivotal for survivors in a transitional housing program.

It helps them prepare for the likelihood of future violence and enables survivors  to have options and protect themselves when emergency responders might be too far (Creating Sister Space, Red Wind Consulting). Survivors are the experts in their life. They know what options will work for them and what will not. The advocates role is to simply get them thinking about these options. Keep in mind that not all women are the same. What has worked for some will not always work for someone else. Empowering the survivor to develop their safety plan encourages them to critically think about what will keep them safe, in turn developing their skills to safety plan on their own. 

Some things to consider when safety planning with a woman in a transitional program: 
  • Be sure to include children and pets into the safety planning
  • Talk to them about getting a PO Box 
  • Encourage them to talk to their family, friends and neighbors so that if they see or hear something, they can call the police. 
  • Talk to them about taking different routes to work, school or to the grocery store. 
  • Talk to them about social media and computer safety
  • Always lock doors 
  • Document any instances of threats or protection order violations
  • Keep important documents such as driver's licenses, birth certificates for children and survivor, extra keys etc. in a safe place. 
  • Talk to their child's daycare/school so that they are aware and can protect children and privacy. 

When talking with a survivor about safety planning, ask questions that get them to clearly think about what they know (Creating Sister Space, Red Wind Consulting, Inc.): 
  • When do you think you are in danger? Where is that? 
  • What would help you feel safer, both physically and emotionally?
  • What have you done in the past to stay safe? 

Remember, there are some different needs when it comes to safety planning and domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking: 
  • Safety planning for instances of domestic violence, the focus needs to be about anticipating the abusers actions, looking at the dangers and recognizing abusers shift their tactics. It needs to be adaptable and include children and pets. 
  • For instances of sexual assault, safety planning needs to focus on providing community resources, normalizing potential responses and triggers, creating a sense of safety with in themselves and within their personal space as well as anticipating dangers that may result from the perpetrator. 
  • When safety planning for instances of dating violence, it is important to know that many tend to minimize this type of violence. It is important that support systems believe the victim and that they are informed about social media and social community safety. Perpetrators might use social media to vilify and further violate further victimize. 
  • Stalking is not always the result of an intimate relationship. The abuser may not have had a relationship but becomes obsessed/infatuated with the person being stalked. According to the Stalking Resource Center, the majority of stalking victims know the person they are being stalked by.  According to Mullen, Mackenzie, Ogloff, Pathe, McEwan, and Purcell, "In most stalking situations, except where the target is a public figure, the presence of threats increases the risk of progression to violence." (2006) so it is critical to extensively safety plan with the program participant and to especially talk about the frequency of threats. Consider talking about alternative routes to places of work, school and stores; talk about getting a new phone but keeping her old phone to document threats and unwanted contact; keeping location of transitional housing address confidential and get a PO Box; inform neighbors and employer so that if they see or hear anything they report to the police and also to make sure they keep the victim's information confidential.
  • Vulnerable populations and special populations might have additional safety plan needs. It is important that that is addressed in policy and procedure. 
Housing and Homeless Services TTA: This project is supported by Grant No. 2015-TA-AX-K069  awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Housing and VAWA

To access the Housing and VAWA document below, click on the image or click here to open up a PDF file for download.
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Housing and Homeless Services TTA: This project is supported by Grant No. 2015-TA-AX-K069  awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Housing and Homeless Services TTA: This project is supported by Grant No. 2015-TA-AX-K069  awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.
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