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Developing the outline of a shelter operations plan

Last edited: September 14, 2012

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An outline of operations helps ensure all key elements of a plan for accommodation and services are considered prior to undertaking the practical steps of establishing the shelter facility. The outline should include descriptions of plans around each area identified below.

  • Service provision, which may include a variety of supports and should strive to be available 24-hours per day, every day of the year, to ensure women can access immediate protection and support as needed.
    • Safe, confidential and secure accommodation for women and their children.
    • Basic material needs, such as hygiene products, clothing and meals.
    • Protection and assistance based on individualized service plans, including risk assessment and safety planning during and after the shelter stay.
    • Individual and system-level support in overcoming long-term effects of violence and related barriers to independent living:
      • Individual counseling to support women in achieving their goals and address any challenges women may be experiencing (i.e. trauma, substance abuse, mental health issues);
      • Assistance with legal applications and court preparation, as well as accompaniment or referrals to legal, protection and medical services;
      • Assistance in finding employment and accessing economic opportunities;
      • Support in finding long-term affordable accommodation;
      • Counseling and related support for children accompanying their mothers to address the effects they experienced from the violence and strengthen their capacity to manage the transitions in their life (e.g. their parents’ separation, in cases of domestic violence, move to a new home, etc.)
    • Infrastructure and facilities (including secure records management)
    • Staffing and management (including roles and responsibilities, human resource issues, professional development, supervision, monitoring and evaluation)
    • Financial management and budgeting (both start-up and operational)
    • Collaboration with other organizations and systems, including advocacy within coordinated community responses
    • Fundraising


Demystifying the development of an organizational vision (Lipton, 1996). This resource explores how and why establishing organizational vision works, offers a template that has been tested in organizations (including non-governmental organizations) and outlines the themes necessary for development of an effective vision. Available in English.

Second stage shelters: Closing the gap – a practical guide for communities (Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters, 2008). This guide provides an overview of establishing medium-term shelters for women, based on the context in Alberta, Canada. The guide is organized into two parts: an overview of the context of violence against women and shelter supports in Alberta; and guidance for planning and establishing a second-stage shelter within a community, which covers advocacy, fundraising, selecting a location, identifying an appropriate space, staffing and programming. Available in English.