Sheltering with Care

Tennessee Domestic Violence Shelter Best Practices Manual

Welcome to Sheltering with Care, a best practices manual for Tennessee’s domestic violence shelters.


According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s concept of a trauma-informed approach, “A program, organization, or system that is trauma-informed:

  • Realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands the potential paths for recovery.

  • Recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system.

  • Responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices.

  • Seeks to actively resist re-traumatization.”

In this manual, we have chosen to address three branches of shelter operation, for which we offer a trauma-informed framework:

  1. Changes to the physical operations, culture, and environment of shelters that seek to reduce re-traumatization.

  2. Customization of support services that meet the unique needs of individual survivors and encourage a more comprehensive and holistic experience within shelter.

  3. Reduction of shelter rules and change to policies and procedures that duplicate power and control dynamics experienced by survivors.

One of the core objectives of a trauma-informed agency is to reduce the power imbalance that exists between advocates and survivors. Advocates and administrative staff will always have some degree of power over the survivors they work with. Advocates can decide whether or not a survivor receives services within their agency, and by the very nature of their jobs, advocates possess connections and resources that survivors may not otherwise have access to. Therefore, a trauma-informed agency must work to reduce this power imbalance by empowering survivors to direct their own shelter experiences and lead their own healing journeys. Throughout this manual, you will find examples of evidence-based best practices that take into account power differentials between staff and residents and seek to reduce the risk of re-traumatization.


How to Use this Manual

This manual can be used in its entirety as a tool for helping agencies implement trauma-informed care ‘from the ground up’ by offering best practices for shelter environment and culture, advocacy and supportive services, and policy and procedure. Agencies that need assistance in specific areas are encouraged to focus on individual sections as needed. Each section of this manual contains definitions, checklists, tools, real-world examples of implementation, and additional resources. Agencies may go section-by-section and use the included checklists, activities, conversation starters, and other tools to lead discussions during supervision, staff meetings, and for staff training and personal development.

There are existing webinar recordings that correspond with many sections that can be used as supplemental training tools, you will find them linked below. Finally, the Shelter Institute trainings that the Coalition is offering regionally across the state are based around the contents of the manual, and give a broad overview of core concepts contained within. You can find those trainings on our 'Events & Trainings' page.  

Below you may download the full text of the manual or pick and choose those sections that are applicable to you. 

Complete Text

Full Manual

Access the full text of the manual here in a download and printable file. 


View, print and download the manual's introduction materials. 

Creating a Trauma-Informed Environment

Section 1- Trauma-informed Shelter Environment & Culture

Creating a safe and welcoming physical environment should be one of the primary concerns of any trauma-informed victim services agency. 

Webinar Recording

Creating a Trauma-Informed Environment

Shelter Series webinar-  Creating a Trauma Informed Shelter Environment

Creating an Inclusive Culture

Section 1- Trauma-informed Shelter Environment & Culture

People suffering from domestic violence are already vulnerable— and their chances for receiving the right kind of support are even more diminished if service providers do not have the adequate support, training, and resources to provide services that are responsive to their specific cultural and personal circumstances.

Serving Survivors with Disabilities

Section 1- Trauma-informed Shelter Environment & Culture

Individuals with disabilities are at an increased risk for experiencing sexual and domestic violence and other forms of abuse. This is due in part to the increased vulnerability to and dependence on caregivers and intimate partners experienced by many people with disabilities. It may take longer for people with disabilities to reach out for help than the average person, and many with disabilities experience multiple instances of abuse across their lifetime.

Webinar Recording

Serving Survivors with Disabilities

Under Served Populations Series Webinar- Serving Survivors With Disabilities

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This project was supported by Award 2016-WF-AX-0023 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women

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​Find us: 

2 International Plaza Drive, Suite 425
Nashville, TN 37217

For Students & Activists:
For Prevention Specialists:


The office is closed through May 31 but services are available. Reach us 8am-5pm Monday through Thursday at our phone number, 615 386-9406

24-hour State-Wide Domestic Violence Hotline- 1-800-356-6767

This project is funded under an agreement with the State of Tennessee, Finance and Administration, Office of Criminal Justice Programs. The opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations contained within this document are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the State of Tennessee.