A Safe Place to Start Over: The Role of Design in Domestic Violence Shelters

Sarah M. Kesler,
Kansas State University

Full paper: www.kon.org/urc/v11/kesler.html

Abstract: This literary analysis explores the design of crisis centers and shelter housing, specifically focusing on those organizations serving victims of domestic violence. It investigates the housing needs of people who are connected to the shelter and its function, such as victims of domestic violence, their children, the administrative workers, and also the abuser. It examines the shelter itself by identifying the various types of space used by victims living in the shelter and how each space affects users of the facility. It also considers which aspects of shelter design influence users most, such as privacy and security, the ability to control their environment, and the effects of the transition from a familiar place to a new location. Information on the design of shelters and the services provided is not readily available (Pable, 2010; Correia & Melbin, 2005). Research specifically about centers that serve victims of domestic violence and their children is even more difficult to come by. To gain a wider perspective and better understanding of the subject, research on homeless shelters and transitional housing was included in the review. In order to more accurately see the role of a crisis center in victims’ lives, staff members from a local crisis center were interviewed to gain insight into the procedures of the shelter environment. It was discovered that design has an enormous impact on both victims residing in the shelter and administrative staff who work there. The design, space planning and functionality of the shelter affect victims psychologically, as well as physically and emotionally impacting them (Baker, Cook, & Norris, 2003). By using the conclusions found through research to improve shelter environments, victims have a better chance of recovering from their crisis situation and becoming successful members of society.

Introduction: Space would have little value if it were not intended for the people that use and inhabit that space. Environments created specifically for human habitation require careful consideration in their design in order to fulfill the intended occupant’s needs (Kopec, 2006). Some environments call for more specialized design elements than others. Domestic violence shelters are spaces with some of the most particular design requirements of any built environment. Shelter housing is also one of the most overlooked types of space in the field of design. Although awareness and the number of programs serving victims of domestic violence is steadily increasing, information about existing programs and the characteristics that prove them to be successful is scarce (Correia & Melbin, 2005). This paper, along with the corresponding research, aims to contribute to the body of knowledge and make progress toward filling in gaps in the area of design for shelter housing and crisis center programs.

Read the full paper: www.kon.org/urc/v11/kesler.html