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Providing information on shelter services

Last edited: September 14, 2012

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Women and girls accessing shelter services have a right to receive information that is required for them to make informed decisions about what is best for them and their children, where relevant. This includes decisions about whether to stay in the shelter, and access services related to their health, well-being and future. This requires understanding the rights of residents, the general and security guidelines of the shelter, and what they can expect from shelter service providers. Providing this information is a form of empowerment as it promotes women's right to self-determination and capacity to decide for themselves.

When sharing information regarding the rights of women staying at the shelter, staff should:

  • Explain that she is entitled to certain rights, while providing an overview of these rights (e.g. to be treated with respect by staff and other residents, right to confidentiality, self-determination, access to any and all information gathered about her by the shelter).
  • Provide her with a written summary of these rights at the end of the meeting in a language of her preference.
  • Invite her to bring any concerns or complaints about violation of these rights to the attention of shelter staff, and explain the shelter's process for responding to such complaints. Women need to be assured that they will not be asked to leave for complaining.

When providing information regarding shelter policies and guidelines, staff should:

  • Outline the security measures that women are expected to follow while in the shelter, and their purpose, to ensure women understand the rationale for each policy. Security regulations will vary depending on the setting and the security features of the shelter. For example, women may be asked to keep the location of the shelter confidential; to not disclose information regarding other women staying at the facility; and to inform shelter staff of any threats they receive that might affect their own safety or that of other women; among others).
  • Note any restrictions or limitations on the activities of women and girls accessing the facility and assistance (e.g. general rules, movement, behaviour and other parameters that are important to maintain a safe, stable and respectful place).
  • Note any restrictions or limitations on women accessing external assistance (e.g. police, embassies, immigration department).
  • Provide a copy of these rules to the woman in a language of her preference, and have her provide written or verbal consent for her file, noting that she has received information and understands the rules.

Staff providing information regarding shelter services should:

  • Inform the woman of the range of assistance available, any restrictions to the support and potential risks and benefits of the activities.
  • Outline the type of information which will be gathered from women when providing services and request informed consent to ensure the woman understands the issues discussed, such as:
    • Potential need to obtain the name of their primary support person and position.
    • Activities that will take place during her stay at the shelter and as part of services provided, including details related to the schedule, duration, location, and staff involved.
    • Services and facilities available, and obligations of the shelter to women accessing its support (e.g. confidentiality, anonymity and safety precautions; the individual’s right to choose to participate in any part of the programme, procedures, or activities).
    • Limitations to the assistance offered, to specific services, or to the level or types of care provided.