January 23, 2018 Domestic Violence and Disabilities Tags: 0 Comments

As an Emergency Shelter for survivors of domestic violence with disabilities, safety planning is a critical part of the mission of Barrier Free Living’s Freedom House.

Safety planning can range from learning about internet related safety for a resident of the shelter, committing to living in a confidential domestic violence location, or following an existing safety protocol so that staff and residents alike remain safe and supported.

During Hurricane Sandy, the Freedom House staff was prepared to go above and beyond the call of duty before and during the storm. Part of the emergency planning in place was an updated contact information list for all staff including cell phone and home phone numbers. Freedom House had mapped out and had on file where staff live in relation to the shelter, which staff relied on public transportation which would not be available in this type of emergency, who was able to sleep over, and who could be on call.

Freedom House is equipped with an emergency generator which powers key lighting in common areas and powers one light and the refrigerator in every apartment. Fuel levels were checked before the storm arrived. When the storm approached, the staff and facility were ready, having purchased flashlights, water, dry food stuffs and other supplies in preparation.

Four resident assistants, one maintenance staff member and the shelter director and director of social services slept at the shelter to make sure that the facility and residents were safe before, during, and after the storm. Staff stayed over three nights.

After the storm passed the program got in touch with as many staff as possible to make sure that they were safe and prepared and able to come to work. Some staff members traveled several hours via bus and ferry to make sure that the residents felt supported during this time of crisis.

For shelter residents, an emergency community meeting was called for both adults and children. Residents had the opportunity to talk about their concerns prior to the storm.

During the meeting, the community agreed upon basic safety procedures. Prior to the storm, residents agreed to obtain supplies including medication, diapers, food, water, and flash lights. Exterior doors would be kept locked for the duration of the storm. Staff provided residents who did not have funds with the supplies that they needed.

Activities were planned for the days of the storm. Planned groups included arts and crafts and yoga for the children. Anne Markowitz, who conducts anger workshops for Barrier Free Living’s programs, came to work as a volunteer, along with a group of undergraduates at Princeton University who volunteered as yoga instructors. All of these activities helped keep people calm and to come together as a community.


*Maintain a sense of security and safety

*Communicate with the residents about their concerns

*Come up with a plan of action that the residents can participate in

*Plan activities to keep adults and children busy

*Make sure emergency supplies are available to the residents and staff on site

Additional Resources

View the Human Service Council’s updated list of Hurricane Sandy resources for nonprofits HERE. HSC is working with government, our members, and others to compile information that is helpful to the sector.

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