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A New Approach to Serving MA Survivors of Domestic Violence

The Full Frame Initiative is part of a Massachusetts pilot project to pinpoint not only the needs, but also the strengths of domestic-violence survivors. (Fibonacci Blue/Flickr)
The Full Frame Initiative is part of a Massachusetts pilot project to pinpoint not only the needs, but also the strengths of domestic-violence survivors. (Fibonacci Blue/Flickr)
April 8, 2019

GREENFIELD, Mass. — Massachusetts is trying a new approach to help survivors of domestic violence at risk of homelessness. Five state agencies and the nonprofit Full Frame Initiative are developing a system to better assess survivors' needs when they seek emergency shelter.

Founder and CEO of Full Frame Initiative, Katya Smyth, explained people facing both domestic violence and homelessness often have to make trade-offs to get social services. For example, a woman might find a shelter, but not in her county. Smyth said the result can be unintended consequences, like disrupting her children's lives and making them change schools.

"Often, social service programs are just trying to help people deal with the trade-offs that have been created by another intervention,” Smyth said.

To minimize those trade-offs, the pilot program will look not only at housing and safety needs, but other parts of a survivor's life. The collaborators are developing a new intake form that includes a person's social connections, strengths and access to resources. They'll also work with domestic-violence survivors for up to eight weeks to help them get housing and plan for immediate and long-term goals.

The pilot program is based on the Full Frame Initiative's five aspects of well-being: social connectedness, stability, safety, mastery, and meaningful access to relevant resources. Smyth explained that new housing may not be the first step for some people fleeing domestic violence. Instead, she said, social services could help them focus on developing their strengths.

"The trajectory for many, many people were shifts in their lives - more access to belonging and social connectedness, more of a sense of mastery - that helped them experience things outside of a relationship, and that created space for them to either leave or shift that relationship,” she said.

The collaboration will work with the YWCA in Worcester County and the Center for Human Development in Berkshire, Franklin, and Hampshire counties to implement the pilot program. It's being developed this spring and should launch this summer.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem, Public News Service - MA