In 2019, Abby’s House assisted 162 women and 43 children in both our supportive housing and shelter as well as an additional 400 women through advocacy and referral services. Each woman and child who comes through our doors has experienced a range of obstacles in their lives – from homelessness to domestic violence, substance use to the loss of a loved one, and more. Their experiences and the roads they’ve traveled are unique. In order to help each woman move her life forward, we as staff want to ensure that we are providing the best possible support by meeting them where they are on their journeys. One of the ways in which Abby’s House does this is through a strengths-based approach, and by continually educating ourselves on national best practices to effectively serve women with histories of homelessness, substance use, mental health, domestic violence and trauma.
As part of an Activation Fund Grant awarded to Abby’s House by The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts in October 2019, we have begun work on a Community Partnerships Project. Through this project, staff are working with the women of Abby’s House to identify their unique service needs and expand or develop new partnerships throughout the greater Worcester area to meet those needs. The grant helps to ensure that the appropriate resources are being provided for the women who come through our doors to foster healing and achieve their goals.
Through the Activation Fund Grant, the entire staff recently received training in trauma-informed care, provided by the Institute for Health & Recovery (IHR). During this training, staff learned about various types of traumatic events and gained an understanding of the lasting adverse effects that trauma has on an individual’s physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
The training provided skills and strategies to use when helping those affected by trauma, including ways to validate how the women may be feeling, how to provide them with appropriate information and ways to resolve issues by allowing the women to take an active part in problem-solving. All of this begins with building safe relationships, being kind and non-judgmental, and helping women restore a sense of control and autonomy over their own situation and life progression in a compassionate environment.
As a result of this training, our next step is to implement a trauma-informed integration team at Abby’s House, who will take our training out of the classroom and weave it into the design and delivery of all activities at Abby’s House. The team will use IHR’s trauma integration template to incorporate what we learned, and further our culture of care for self and others. Through our partnership with IHR and The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts, Abby’s House is continuing its commitment to providing the best possible support for the women and children we serve.
 IHR is a nonprofit organization that provides counseling to individuals, youth and families across Massachusetts. IHR also provides training, consultation and technical assistance to state, local and national organizations to improve the integration of best practices and policies into prevention and treatment programs for families.