Abusive Relationship – What is a Transition House?


Lifestyle / Monday, March 27th, 2017

A Safe Place to Run

Gregory and I have been in and out of 3 transition houses the past 2 years. Before my first visit, I had no idea what to expect, nor expect that I’d return to one. Today I wanted to tell you what a transition house is and how they can help you flee domestic violence/abuse.

knowledge is power, especially when leaving an abusive relationship. Learn what a transition house is and how it can help you when you decide it's time to flee.

What Is a Transition House?

A transition house is a safe house that women and their children can stay at when they first leave abuse. They provide food, toiletries, some counseling and act as community outreach workers and can help connect you to lawyers, counseling, and doctors. Every transition house I have stayed in also has had a clothing room or had a budget to go out and help you buy clothes if you were not able to take any with you.

Some transition houses may only allow you to stay for 30 days, others may offer you to stay for ‘as long as it takes’. Each house is set up differently, has different house rules, and a different budget set up. So each house will be different, yet they all are basically the same.

These places are communal living, meaning you are living in a large house that has several other people staying there as well. Some transition houses are small, only able to hold 3 women and a few children. While other houses can hold 9+ women with many children. I’ve been in a house where there is no backyard play area for kids, and 2 houses with parks in the backyard, each fenced in with camera security.

Makes you Feel Safe

Security is a big deal in these houses, for obvious reasons. They are always set up with cameras, locks on every door, fences, gates, intercoms. Staff members have walkie-talkies to contact each other, and no resident is given a key to the front door. You must buzz the office and someone will open the door for you.

Staff will require you to tell them when you are leaving the house, and if you know when you will be back home. This is to ensure that you do come back. Every house I entered I signed a piece of paper asking if staff had permission to put out a missing persons report if I go missing. So if you feel like your abuser would track you down and suddenly you go missing, you have people who will sound the alarm and search for you until you are safe again.

Transition houses are safe houses, the addresses are unlisted and you never tell people where you are staying, not even the area of town. Some houses are more strict on rules, not allowing a friend to pick you up, even by the closest fire station. But another may allow a pick up at a sky train station. It all depends on what each house considers safe to lower the risk factor for all house residents.

Room Arrangements

Every house I’ve been in I’ve gotten a private room. Mothers and children are a family unit and get a room (and sometimes a private bathroom) to make children feel comfortable. If you are a single woman in a transition house, you may be bunked with one or two others. Each room has a lock, each resident gets the key to their door. Always lock your door. If you lock your keys inside, staff can open your door. Sometimes shady people get into these houses. A lovely lady had clothes and lotion stolen by her roommate. The roommate was kicked out as a result, among other reasons.

Rooms will have a bed, a dresser, and lamp, a closet and a garbage can. Bedding will be provided and if you’re lucky, so will a TV. There is no food or drinks allowed in rooms, to prevent garbage and infestations. However, most houses will allow a small glass of water or water bottle. Milk for babies in a bottle have never been a problem in my experience.

Food and Chores

The kitchens are always stocked. Pantries are locked and can be opened by staff if you ask, the fridge and cupboards offer plenty if you’re looking for a quick snack. Staff usually goes shopping once a week and I’ve never not been asked if there was anything I needed or would like from the store. If you want some real orange juice, ask. If you want to make Shrimp Alfredo Pasta for dinner, they’ll try and buy ingredients.

Dinner is made every night by a resident or staff member. Residents rotate who cooks dinner according to the chore chart that is set up by staff. One day you may be cooking dinner, the next you’ll be doing dishes, the next you may be vacuuming the carpet, and another you may be taking out the trash. Everyone takes a turn in order to keep the house in order. This isn’t a hotel, staff will not pick up after you, and will confront you if you are creating problems. Staff members are not janitors. But they may hire one to clean the bathrooms, or you may have to clean your own. I’ve experienced both.

Lastly, about food, dinner is cooked on rotation, but breakfast and lunch are usually up to residents to organize for themselves. Some residents have children in school or care, some residents have jobs or appointments to head to, so every person fends for themselves and sits together for the evening meal. This is communal living after all, sit and chat with other ladies and enjoy some company. It’s a great part of healing.

Rules of the House

When you enter a transition house and have settled in a few hours, you’ll be called to the office for your intake. Here staff will go through paperwork, ask for your autograph on documents for their file, and go through house rules with you. Each house has different rules, but they are generally very similar with a few minor detail changes. Some example house rules:

  • All residents must be out of their room by 8AM
  • All residents must be home by 10PM
  • Lights out at 11PM
  • Kitchen closed at 8PM
  • All Children in their rooms by 7PM
  • No drugs or alcohol
  • No threatening staff or other residents
  • Each mother must care for their own child at all times

Child Care

Each house I’ve been to offers different child care support. One had an entire playroom in the basement with child care staff several days a week to give you a break. Another house had staff who would watch kids if you went to an appointment, and another wouldn’t watch children at all and you’d have to juggle parenthood and organizing your life all at once. It doesn’t sound hard, but when you’re in the middle of it, it all feels like a hurricane. I think all houses should provide childcare, I’d go volunteer as a care worker for a house in the future if I can find a way. It’s important to have ‘me’ time while fleeing. You aren’t just a parent, you’re a person who needs time to process.

My Experiences

As I said before, I’ve been to 3 different transition houses. Each time I entered one I thought I would never have to do it again. I hope I’ll never have to, but if I do, I have a better idea of how to navigate them. The first house I went to I cried. A lot. I was scared, sad, wanted to go back… by my third house I understood and was still scared, but brave. More able to deal with the situation.

Each of my experiences was very different from one another. None went entirely the way I planned, but that’s the story of my life. It didn’t go as planned, but that’s okay. Because I’m still here, the struggle is real, but I’m still truckin’ along. And that’s all that matters, is that we are still here.

Before You Go

It’s scary leaving your abuser, scarier when you are entering the unknown. I hope this post was useful to you, making your introduction to a transition house smoother than my first experience. To me, knowledge is power. The more I know about something, the easier the transition is. I highly recommend you go to a transition house if you are in need to escape your abusive partner. They have the means and training to help you transition back to a normal life, free of charge.

I highly recommend you go to a transition house if you are in need to escape your abusive partner. They have the means and training to help you transition back to a normal life, free of charge. You can always google Transition House or Safehouse with a location to find a phone number to a home near/ far away from you. I highly recommend clearing your search history or using a public computer at the library to search so an abuser doesn’t know about your plan of escape.

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