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Coburn’s Housing Model Praised in MSU Report
27th Jan


Coburn’s Housing Model Praised in MSU Report

Coburn’s Housing Model Praised in MSU Report

Three decades ago, domestic violence was still a taboo topic to discuss in public. “In 1994, when I began in the field of domestic violence,” remembers Julia Kathary, Coburn Place’s President and Executive Director, “the work looked very different. Survivors were called ‘victims,’ and the field was still commonly referred to as “the Battered Women’s Movement.” At the time, the solution to intervention was emergency shelters. Adult women received demerits for missing curfew, or for not participating in mandated programs, and removed from their safe beds. Intersectionality was not the norm. Transgender, lesbian, and male survivors were not broadly considered in program design nor service delivery.”


A Closer Look: Improving Domestic Violence Assistance

With the goal of learning how Coburn’s proven housing model could be replicated in other cities and areas, Michigan State University’s Research Consortium on Gender-Based Violence recently conducted a study on Coburn Place. The resulting report, “Coburn Place: An Exemplar of the Domestic Violence Traditional Housing Model,” applauds the innovation behind Coburn Place’s assistance standards.


Dr. Cris M. Sullivan, of MSU, said, “I’m impressed with Coburn Place for the number of people who leave their transitional housing program into permanent and safe housing. And then [Coburn Place advocates] continue working with those individuals to make sure that they continue to stay safe and stable.”


Why Study Coburn Place?

Coburn Place is the largest and most comprehensive Domestic Violence Transitional Housing (DV TH) program in the state of Indiana. We created a DV TH model to provide survivors (regardless of age, sex, or orientation) with the time needed to heal from trauma and the opportunity to secure the necessary resources to obtain and sustain safe and affordable housing. 


Our program is structured to eliminate barriers for survivors, so they may best achieve independence and self-sufficiency. Early in our development, Coburn Place made some critical strategic decisions that differentiated the organization and shaped our housing program, including:


  1. Offering a highly secure residential facility 
  2. Eliminating imposed financial obligations on residents
  3. Removing compromised advocacy (or dual advocate roles)
  4. Strengthening and diversifying advocacy services, especially around housing
  5. Minimizing barriers to entry by removing qualifications, like substance use and mental health
  6. Offering advocacy services and resources to residents
  7. Providing voluntary participation and trauma-informed care policies
  8. Addressing survivors’ healing and personal well-being needs
  9. Supplementing DV TH with Rapid Rehousing (community housing) and flexible funding
  10. Creating a culture of self-determination and growth


This new approach to programming proved wildly successful. Between 2015 and the start of 2019, 121 survivors exited Coburn’s onsite transitional program. When survivors leave Coburn Place’s transitional housing program, a remarkable 78 percent go into permanent housing situations. Only 18 percent of survivors go to temporary placement (mostly living with friends or family).


A Different Kind of DV TH Program

Coburn Place was the first residential domestic violence program in Indiana to implement a voluntary, trauma-informed model of service delivery. We recognize that each survivor is on their unique journey to immediate and long-term safety, to emotional and social well-being, to self-sufficiency, and permanent housing. We aim to empower and partner with clients through our programs and services.


Our community-based housing (CBH) program is a more recent addition to the suite of programs we offer and supplements the on-site DV TH program. If survivors meet eligibility criteria, an advocate will assist them in submitting applications to one or both programs. 


“What we heard over and over from survivors who worked with Coburn Place is how they went from feeling isolated and helpless to feeling supported and that they had options and that they weren’t going to be left out there on their own anymore,” explained Dr. Sullivan. “They knew that Coburn Place staff were never going to leave them as long as they needed them.”

Sarah’s Story

“Sarah” found refuge at Coburn Place after fleeing a physically abusive partner. After moving into transitional housing at Coburn Place, Sarah didn’t leave the apartment for several months, nor did she speak to anyone. On regular visits, her primary advocate would nonchalantly bring Sarah her favorite snacks, talk to her, invite her to events at Coburn Place, and introduce her to caring staff members. 


Because Coburn carries decades of experience in serving individuals who have undergone trauma, we recognize that survivors are the experts of their own lives and therefore do not ever mandate programming. With Sarah, Coburn gave her the space she needed to heal on her own terms. And, over time, our advocates and therapists helped Sarah build relationships she trusted, giving her the confidence to initiate contact with others. 


The Future of Transitional Housing

Coburn’s journey-to-now has been a practice of trust, authenticity, and accountability. For almost three decades, we have aimed to effectively transition survivors to long-term housing and help survivors work through past trauma by providing relevant resources and advocacy.


Staff and participants agreed that our success in transitioning survivors to long-term housing is due to the comprehensive and holistic approach provided throughout a survivor’s stay, access to rent-free and subsidized housing while in the program, and the supportive atmosphere created by Coburn Place.


Our goal is not only to serve more survivors, successfully transitioning them to long-term housing, but to reduce the time survivors have to spend on the waitlist. To learn more about Coburn Place’s DV TH program and hear the compelling stories of many survivors, please read MSU’s full report.

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