Environmental stressors within the built environment can greatly impact health. Environmental stressors, such as noise levels, crowding, and housing quality have been shown to impact physical healing as well as mental health. Although environmental stressors have been examined within healthcare environments, such as hospitals and clinics, very little research exists about the presence of environmental stressors within shelter environments. Furthermore, even less research has looked at environmental stressors present within intimate partner violence (IPV) shelters. The built environment of IPV shelters and environmental stressors present within the shelter have the potential to greatly impact survivors’ health and influence whether survivors gain positive outcomes from services provided within the shelter.
To address this gap in knowledge, this study identifies environmental stressors found within IPV shelter environments and formulates a measurement to capture survivors’ level of environmental stress. Ten survivors were interviewed at three shelters, one rural and two suburban, across North Texas in order to gain knowledge about the physical structure of shelters and potential environmental stressors experienced by shelter residents. In addition, a secondary data analysis was conducted on 150 qualitative interviews of survivors based across the state of Texas to identify additional stressors. Finally, spatial mapping of the built environment of the location of the shelters was conducted to identify potential stress related to mobility and access to employment and healthcare. Then using participant feedback and GIS data, a measurement was developed to capture survivors’ level of environmental stressor in shelters. The measurement was developed by obtaining feedback from shelter residents, shelter staff, and experts within the research community who have studied the impact of the built environment on survivors’ outcomes.
The results of this study have implications for the development and design of IPV shelters and for the rules and policies that govern life within the shelter.