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Last edited: September 14, 2012

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safety and range of protection, psycho-social, legal and other services needed by women and girls to escape gender-based violence. Alternative accommodation options have been developed in the many communities where there are no shelters or where there is insufficient shelter space to accommodate women and girls in need of physical protection.

When linked with a formal shelter or survivor support services, alternative accommodation options provide a feasible strategy for promoting emergency access to safe accommodation for women in communities with insufficient shelter resources.

Alternative accommodation models vary across geographic and resource settings, ranging from:

  • Safe homes, which may be private residential spaces that are made available by community members on an temporary basis to women fleeing violence, or more public community houses made available to survivors and secured by the community.
  • Emergency safe spaces, which may be developed in various community locations (e.g. hotels, rooms in hospitals or medical centres and churches).
  • Confidential private accommodation, involving higher security houses or apartments for survivors who need more discreet accommodation or have specific safety and life needs that cannot be met in communal housing.
  • Sanctuary schemes which allow women to stay in their own homes and remove the perpetrator.
  • Rapid re-housing, which offers women immediate stable and safe housing options as an alternative to staying at shelter facilities.

With any alternative model, the specific security risks and safety options for survivors must be considered before determining whether a particular approach is a feasible option for the woman and any children accompanying her. For example, community homes or emergency spaces are unlikely to offer reinforced security measures and may not be appropriate for women who are at-risk of lethal violence, where the perpetrator has made threats against a survivor or possesses a weapon.

Alternative models also require greater levels of collaboration, commitment and enforcement capacity from security and judicial actors, to ensure protective measures (e.g. targeted patrols, rapid responses, and enforcement of protection orders) can be effectively implemented if needed. This may be supported through formal partnerships and joint programming between women’s shelter/ advocacy organizations, police and prosecutors.

While alternative accommodation may be the only option for women fleeing violence in some communities, it is important that organizations providing support for such approaches fully inform survivors and others involved (community hosts, businesses or other service providers accommodating or assisting women) of the potential risks involved in the model and develop joint plans for minimizing and responding to such risks.