My Sister's Place (MSP) is part of an interactive community committed to eradicating domestic violence. We provide safe and confidential emergency shelter and transitional-to-permanent housing to battered women and their children. We also provide supportive programs, counseling, education and advocacy to all survivors of domestic violence. Our goal is to empower survivors to take control of their own lives.
In 2012, more than 90% of the families served in MSP’s emergency shelter moved on to safe, more stable homes.
In 1976, the Women's Legal Defense Fund, now the National Partnership for Women and Families, launched a Taskforce on Abused Women, providing hotline support services to victims of domestic violence. They soon discovered the prevalence of this public health issue, and in response, MSP was founded in 1979 as a confidential, 24-hour hotline and 15-bed emergency shelter, which reached capacity instantly. In 1981, the agency moved to a 22-bed shelter, and in 1989, began offering transitional housing to shelter residents. In 2006, in collaboration with the District of Columbia Superior Court's Crime Victim Compensation Program, MSP launched the Emergency Services Center to provide solutions-focused counseling to hundreds of women, children and men, referred through the court system. In fall 2010, MSP completed its Sanctuary Plus expansion and renovation initiative, increasing its emergency shelter capacity from 22 to 45 beds for women and their children. In 2011, the agency overhauled its transitional housing program and launched RISE (Reaching Independence through Survivor Empowerment), an innovative transitional-to-permanent housing program. MSP is the only shelter in DC that offers a full continuum of care from immediate crisis on our hotline through emergency shelter through long-term safety and stability in RISE.
Our programs and services currently include:
24-Hour Hotline: Our free and confidential hotline serves as a lifeline for thousands of victims in the metropolitan area. Available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year MSP’s counselors work with callers to develop safety plans and refer them to community resources. In 2012, 2,512 callers received support, safety planning, and referrals to appropriate community resources through MSP’s hotline. Our 24-hour hotline experienced a 65.4% increase in calls since 2008, when the economy collapsed. 24-Hour Hotline: 202-749-8000.
Sanctuary Plus: During their approximately 90-day stay at MSP’s emergency shelter, residents receive individual and group counseling, clinical case-management, and referrals focused on addressing the unique challenges each family and each individual faces. In fall 2010, we completed our initiative to expand and renovate our aging emergency shelter to provide refuge for up to 45 women and their children, or up to 16,425 bed-nights each year. The 9,000 square-foot state-of-the-art facility features 15 bedrooms, a children’s resource center, a secure playground, and a commercial kitchen with a full-time chef who plans nutritious meals for families. The shelter’s dormitory-style design encourages a sense of community and support.
Children at Sanctuary Plus: As in most domestic violence shelters, children comprise the largest population in MSP’s residential programs. Often lacking the ability to constructively express their feelings, children who have experienced trauma and witnessed violence, often exhibit negative or violent behavior at school and at home. MSP staff and trained volunteers conduct play and coloring therapy to help children express themselves in a healthy, constructive manner. Additionally, clinical case-managers collaborate with mothers to address each individual child’s individual needs.
RISE (Reaching Independence through Survivor Empowerment): We recognize that without the financial well-being to live independently, victims could return to or remain in an abusive home. In response, we launched RISE. In this program, staff provides financial literacy, life-skills training, and credit repair. Clients obtain apartments in their own names and successfully sustain them with assistance from MSP through a gradually declining rent subsidy that we provide for 12 months (with an option to extend up to 12 months). Clients are able to save for the future, and build a home of their own. They leave RISE on track financially, living in their own homes, poised for long-term safety and stability. In 2012, its first year, RISE served 5 families. All voluntarily opened savings and checking accounts, developed and maintained household budgets, and paid their bills on time.
Residential and Nonresidential Counseling and Case Management: MSP provides solutions-focused, therapeutic counseling aimed at empowering families as they develop and purse their goals toward independent, stable lives.
Aftercare Program: Upon exiting the residential program, clients benefit from ongoing contact with case-management staff to support them in their independence. Services include counseling, referrals to community-based services, and advocacy as needed for a minimum of 90 days. Our goal is to provide active outreach and assist clients in building long-term supportive systems within their communities, to reduce the likelihood of future victimization.
Community Outreach and Education: Eradicating domestic violence requires a coordinated community response that embraces prevention and intervention. MSP partners with law enforcement, the legal community, clergy, and others to ensure that service providers and community members are equipped to appropriately respond to victims’ needs. MSP’s community outreach program raises awareness about domestic violence with a focus on prevention and intervention through the distribution of literature, dissemination of information at events, and innovative projects.
Latino Outreach Program: One of every ten DC residents is Latino, and this population requires a cultural competency when discussing domestic violence based on the community’s values. With a commitment to responding to our community’s needs and diversity, MSP is the only one of DC’s three domestic violence shelters that conducts active outreach to the Latino community.
Community Partnerships: MSP’s holistic approach and continuum of care rely on partners in the community to assist clients by providing referrals to appropriate programs, including but not limited to legal services, housing, child-care, literacy, nutrition, life-skills training, job training and placement, educational, and medical services. In 2012, MSP provided nearly 17,000 referrals to its partners. Collaboration with other agencies prevents duplication of programs, reduces costs across the social services sector, and ensures that MSP’s clients receive specialized services, maximizing our agency’s impact on the lives of families fleeing domestic violence.
After experiencing a lifetime of abuse and poverty, Cindy fled to MSP's shelter, motivated to change her life, to begin healing, and to pursue her dreams. She had already been accepted into a vocational program for her chosen career, and worked with staff to explore employment options to finance her education. Diligent and determined – she secured three options for part-time work and prepared to return to school. After only two months at our shelter, Cindy became one of the first five families served in RISE. She thanked our agency, “The world has so much to offer; and thanks to MSP, I have a second chance."
In spring, 2012, Cindy became the first client to “graduate” from RISE. She now lives in a home she built for herself and is equipped for success in a career she loves. Most importantly, she is safe, stable and living independently. .
Support My Sister’s Place and families and women, like Cindy.