The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration describes six key principles of a trauma-informed approach. While these principles apply to multiple types of systems and settings, we’ve adapted them here to the role of the homelessness service system:

Safety. People experiencing homelessness and program staff feel physically and psychologically safe. Physical settings and interpersonal interactions should promote a sense of safety for every child, young person, family, Veteran, person living with a disability, or individual adult experiencing homelessness.

Trustworthiness and Transparency. Homelessness service systems and programs should operate and make decisions in ways that are transparent to everyone, building and maintaining trust with people experiencing homelessness, staff, and other stakeholders.

Peer Support. Peers are integral to establishing and maintaining safety and hope, building trust, enhancing collaboration, and using their lived expertise to help others with housing stability and other goals, like recovery and healing.

Collaboration and Mutuality. Value is placed on relationship, partnership, and leveling power differences between staff and consumers to promote shared power and decision-making across the program. There is recognition that everyone has a role to play in advancing trauma-informed approaches.

Empowerment, Voice, and Choice. The homelessness service system and organizations within it foster a belief in people’s resilience and the ability of individuals and communities to heal from trauma. People’s strengths and experiences are recognized, honored, and built upon. Consumers are supported in shared decision-making, choice, and goal-setting to determine their own housing and service needs.

Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues. Homelessness services systems and programs actively identify and address inequities and biases caused or perpetuated by their service delivery models. They promote access to culturally and gender-responsive services, leverage the healing values of traditional cultural connections, adapt programs, policies, and procedures to the racial, ethnic, and cultural needs of consumers, and recognize and address the impacts of historical trauma.

Read the full article about the trauma-informed approach to homelessness at the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.