QUICK ESCAPE FROM SITE

Provide emergency safe shelter

  • There may be instances in the early stages of an emergency when a survivor requires safe shelter.  Most often, these shelters are not pre-existing.  Thus it is critical to identify shelter options for women at risk. The first step is to mobilize the community in order to establish a system where survivors of VAWG can access shelter if it is not safe to return to their place of residence.  This includes:
    • Working with women in the community to form action groups to monitor the safety needs of women and girls and identify community-based alternatives for women and girls who require emergency shelter;
    • Consulting with community leaders about shelter strategies;
    • Setting up safe and confidential systems so that survivors can stay with a family member or community leader or at other undisclosed locations (e.g. faith-based institutions, educational facilities, hospitals/clinics, etc.) 
  • When family- or community-based solutions cannot be found for temporary housing, building a short-term safe house may be the only option. ‘Safe houses’ should be considered as a last resort because they are difficult to manage, especially in the early stages of an emergency.  If building a safe house is the only option, key actions include:
    • Establishing confidential referral systems.
    • Planning for the safety and security for the family/individual/staff providing or managing the safe house.
    • Developing clear guidelines and rules for managing safe houses to prevent misuse and security problems. All referral plans for women accessing safe houses should include strategies for addressing longer-term solutions.
    • Coordinating with all key VAWG response actors, especially psychosocial workers and security/protection staff.
    • Liaising with camp management and/or shelter organizations to develop longer-term shelter allocation plans for women and girls living in safe houses.
    • Ensuring that survivors have access to their food and non-food rations while they live in the safe house.
    • Ensuring that survivors can be accommodated with their children in the safe house if they so wish.
    • Ensuring that all efforts are made to keep child survivors with their families and, when this is not possible, ensuring that child survivors receive extra attention and care at safe houses.
    • Establishing and ensuring safe spaces for transgender women and gender-variant survivors of violence, who may be otherwise rejected from women’s circles in the community.
  • The following is an example of a protocol used in refugee camps in Ethiopia to guide VAWG service providers in how to resolve the shelter needs of women unable to return to their current homes.

Protocols for Temporary Shelter

(GBV protection cases only)

 

Contingency

Procedure

Duration

Comments

Woman has been sexually assaulted and feels unsafe to return to home (no impending danger)

1

Identify other safe alternative living situations. (i.e.  living with friends and family, sharing living quarters other single women)

 

  • SW will work with client to identify friends, family or other safe alternative living situations.
  • Police are informed of new living arrangement to monitor situation
  • Police make plans to patrol area, if needed.
  • ARRA verifies that the systems are established for the client to move.

1 week

If women does not have access to ration, meals can be prepared until she is able to get food ration.

2

 Find an unused house   (Client has no other alternative living situation, but safe to live in a different zone of the camp.) 

  • SW will work with client to identify other safe alternative living situations.  Work with client to see what is needed to make it livable.
  • Police are informed of new living arrangement to monitor situation
  • Police make plans to patrol area, if needed.
  • ARRA verifies that the systems are established for the client to move.

1 week

  • If possible and/or needed IRC will provide wooden poles and metal sheeting for roof

3

Construct a new shelter  (Client has no other alternative living situation, but safe to live in a different zone of the camp.) 

  • SW and GBV officer will contact Youth programme to build shelter
  • GBV officer will provide wooden poles and metal sheeting for roof
  • Police are informed of new living arrangement to monitor situation
  • Police make plans to patrol area, if needed.
  • ARRA verifies that the systems are established for the client to move.

2 week

 

4

Unsafe to live in camp but has options in other locations (relatives live in other camps or towns and are willing to support individual)

  • SW will work with client to identify other safe alternative living situations
  • UNHCR / ARRA verifies that family is available and responsive to requests to live with individual
  • ARRA approves transfer

3 weeks

 

Woman was beaten by husband and has been seriously injured or has decided she no longer wants to live with her husband

1

Identify other safe alternative living situations. (i.e.  living with friends and family, sharing living quarters other single women)

 

  • SW will work with client to identify friends, family or other safe alternative living situations.
  • Police are informed of new living arrangement to monitor situation
  • Police make plans to patrol area, if needed.
  • ARRA verifies that the systems are established for the client to move.

1 week

  • If women does not have access to ration, meals can be prepared until she is able to get food ration.

 

 

2

 Find an unused house   (Client has no other alternative living situation, but safe to live in a different zone of the camp.) 

  • SW will work with client to identify other safe alternative living situations
  • Police are informed of new living arrangement to monitor situation.
  • Plans are made for police to patrol area, if needed.

1 week

If possible and/or needed IRC will provide wooden poles and metal sheeting for roof

3

Construct a new shelter  (Client has no other alternative living situation, but safe to live in a different zone of the camp.) 

  • SW and GBV officer will contact Youth programme to build shelter
  • GBV officer will provide wooden poles and metal sheeting for roof
  • Plans are made for police to patrol area, if needed.

2 week

 

4

Unsafe to live in camp but has options in other locations (relatives live in other camps or towns and are willing to support individual)

  • SW will work with client to identify other safe alternative living situations
  • UNHCR verifies that family/friend is available and responsive to requests to live with individual
  • ARRA approves transfer

3 weeks

 

Woman was beaten and/or sexually abused (actual or attempted abuse) and feels she has immediate threat to life and body (ie suspected perpetrator is still in the area, or has been released from jail, or his relatives has threatened harm, etc.)

1

Identify other safe alternative living situations. (i.e.  living with friends and family, sharing living quarters other single women)

 

  • SW will work with client to identify friends, family or other safe alternative living situations.

1 week

If women does not have access to ration, meals can be prepared until she is able to get food ration.

2

 Find an unused house   (Client has no other alternative living situation, but safe to live in a different zone of the camp.) 

  • SW will work with client to identify other safe alternative living situations.

1 week

If possible and/or needed IRC will provide wooden poles and metal sheeting for roof

3

Construct a new shelter (Client has no other alternative living situation, but safe to live in a different zone of the camp.) 

  • SW and GBV officer will contact Youth programme to build shelter
  • GBV officer will provide wooden poles and metal sheeting for roof

2 week

 

4

Unsafe to live in camp but has options in other locations (relatives live in other camps or towns and are willing to support individual)

  • SW will work with client to identify other safe alternative living situations
  • UNHCR verifies that family is available and responsive to requests to live with individual
  • ARRA approves transfer

3 weeks

 

Case Study: Safe Haven - Sheltering Displaced Persons from Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (Colombia, Haiti, Kenya and Thailand)

Women and girls displaced by an emergency situation, natural or conflict-related are at greater risk of experiencing sexual and gender-based violence, due to a number of destabilizing factors (e.g. family dissolution, breakdown of the community and support structures within the community, challenges in accessing resources, limited security, inadequate housing and often a disintegration of traditional gender roles.

In response, the humanitarian community has continually improved knowledge and practice to reduce vulnerability, prevent SGBV (primarily through protection), and expand access to services (primarily related to health). However, evidence-based information on safe shelter models for displaced individuals has been lacking.  

UNHCR commissioned the Sexual Violence Programme at the Human Rights Center, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law to undertake a four country study to identify and describe models of temporary physical shelter available to displaced persons in humanitarian settings; shed light on challenges and strategies

relevant to the provision of safe shelter to members of displaced communities; and to identify critical protection gaps.

The team produced individual country case studies in Colombia, Haiti, Kenya and Thailand, in addition to an analytical comparative report identifying common themes, practices and lessons learned in sheltering displaced persons at varying stages: 1) Finding Shelter; 2) Shelter Residence and Operation; and 3) Departure.  

The comparative report found (as extracted and in some instances slightly modified):

 

Finding Shelter

  • Despite a general scarcity of safe shelters, there were a number of models used, including: traditional safe houses, private apartments, the homes of community volunteers, secret spaces in offices or community centers, and designated clusters of huts in enclosed sections of refugee camps.
  • The quality of a shelter’s relationships with the outside community could impact survivors’ willingness to enter the shelter programme and could have positive or negative security implications for those living or working there.
  • Access to shelters proved difficult for a number of reasons, including: stigma; separation from loved ones; fear of retaliation by perpetrators; lack of referral pathways (if camp management did not focus on SGBV); and the potential long distance location away from families. For those trying to access mainstream or traditional shelters, additional barriers existed, such as cultural and linguistic differences, fear of leaving one’s community and fear of deportation or arrest due to one’s insecure legal status.
  • Shelters focused on protecting women and girls with few programs available to male survivors, persons with serious health conditions, and members of certain ethnic, religious, or sexual minorities. In some cases, political or funding priorities exacerbated protection gaps, shifting focus to certain harms or groups at the exclusion of others.

 

Shelter Residence and Operation

  • Security was a recurrent challenge across safe shelter programs. Residents and staff alike had reason to fear threats and violence, particularly from perpetrators,their families, and other hostile parties who saw the safe shelter as intruding on family or community resolution processes. Access to security forces varied widely, with a diversity of other mechanisms in place, such as: gates, guards, makeshift alarm systems, and rules regarding visitors and communication.
  • Support needs of safe shelter residents called for: increased psychosocial counseling, access to medical care, education for accompanying children in long-term programs, and either vocational training or income-generation opportunities. Shelter staff also expressed tremendous need for support given the emotional impact of managing serious cases of SGBV, threats from perpetrators and challenges of providing care with limited resources.
  • Most safe shelter programs had developed their own connections to critical support services (particularly health care and counseling) for their residents, though coordination among safe shelter providers was generally weak due to: physical distance between shelters and communities, political differences, distinctions between populations served, competition for funding, or lack of time to reach out to other programs.

 

Departure

  • Exit strategies varied widely and included: resettlement abroad; residents’ reintegration into the surrounding community; relocation of refugees to other camps in-country or to distant urban or rural areas; or provision of training, income-generating opportunities, ongoing access to in-house counseling, and rent money to ease residents’ transitions back into the community.
  • Some residents had to leave shelter before they were ready; others were not free to leave at will.
  • Some programs were able to assess the welfare of former residents by conducting periodic check-ins via home visits or phone calls. Other programs invited former residents to continue to participate in trainings and counseling activities even after they had left the shelter. However, most programs did not have clear mechanisms by which the longer-term safety and welfare of former residents could be evaluated.

 

Recommendations in Brief

  •   Promote community buy-in, especially in camp settings.
  •   Ensure the security of both residents and staff.
  •   Provide support for both residents and staff.
  •   Consider appropriate placement and exit strategies from the beginning.
  •   Explore and develop a diversity of shelter options.
  •   Conduct shelter mapping, coordination, and exchange.
  •   Identify and close protection gaps.
  •   Assess macro-level barriers to, and implications of, safe shelter protection in displacement settings.
  •   Evaluate programme impacts.
  •   Support or conduct further research.

Resources:

SAFE HAVEN Sheltering Displaced Persons from Sexual and Gender-Based Violence: Comparative Report (Human Rights Center, University of California, Berkeley and UNHCR, 2013).  Available in English.

SAFE HAVEN Colombia Report. Available in English and Spanish.

SAFE HAVEN Haiti Report. Available in English and French.

 SAFE HAVEN Kenya Report. Available in English.

SAFE HAVEN Thailand Report. Available in English and summaries in Burmese, Karen and Thai.

 

Source: Extracted from Kim Thuy Seelinger and Julie Freccero. Human Rights Center Sexual Violence Program, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law and UNHCR. 2013. SAFE HAVEN: Sheltering Displaced Persons from Sexual and Gender-Based Violence- Comparative Report

For more information also see the Shelter module, guidance on humanitarian settings.