The Four Principles of Trauma-Informed Housing

There is good news: we are all resilient.

Trauma-informed care is a framework that considers how trauma impacts us, including our beliefs, emotions, and relationships. It reframes our perspective on a person, community, or situation from “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”

Trauma-informed care is guided by core principles. We’ve adapted these principles for a housing context.

Safety & Trust
Choice & Empowerment
Community & Collaboration
Beauty & Joy

Safety & Trust

Staff and residents feel physically and psychologically safe in the built environment and interpersonal interactions. Trust is developed by building genuine relationships and embracing transparency in operations and decision making. Examples include:

  • Light-filled stairwells help residents feel safe traveling to and from their apartments.

  • After a critical incident on or adjacent to a property, Property Management swiftly notifies residents. They distribute essential information, the public safety response and resources in a location and format that residents can easily access.

  • A leasing office welcomes new residents by sending them a video featuring staff, neighbors, and company leadership.

Choice & Empowerment

Staff and residents have agency, representation, and choice in their work and community. POAH recognizes the way residents and communities have historically been impacted by decisions made without their voice or consent. Individual and community strengths and experiences are recognized and built upon. Examples include:

  • Before a property decides to renovate its rundown basketball court, staff invite residents to weigh in on the proposed changes.

  • Residents are invited to a participatory budgeting workshop while their building is under renovation to learn about the project’s financing and weigh in on the direction and scope.

  • Housing staff can choose flexible weekly work schedules that meet their performance goals while accommodating family commitments.

Community & Collaboration

Collaboration minimizes power differences between leadership, staff and residents, and looks for ways to share in decision-making. Positive relationships support resilience and healing. Everyone in the organization plays a role in being trauma-informed. Examples include:

  • Residents lead workshops to teach their neighbors how to run their own community events.

  • Before conducting an annual survey of all residents, staff can choose whether to administer the survey in a 2 month “sprint” or to spread the survey out over the course of the year.

  • A regional portfolio builds a "flex team" of Property Management, Maintenance and Resident Services staff that travels to short-staffed properties to fill in and train new staff.

Beauty & Joy

Resilience and healing happen in physical, social and cultural environments that evoke hope and imagination. POAH staff and residents are encouraged to practice self-care and supported in practicing community care. The built environment considers how physical spaces can support rest and connection and celebrate the history and strengths of the community. Examples include:

  • Interior common spaces feature art by local artists that represent the neighborhood’s history and cultural fabric.

  • A property hosts a weekly mindfulness class to encourage residents to take care of their body and spirit.

  • Staff host and participate in peer circles where they can discuss challenges, share ideas, and be in community with one another.

Trauma-Informed Housing is not the same thing as trauma treatment. Any of us can be trauma informed anywhere with anyone. Our job is not to diagnose or disclose trauma but to recognize that past experiences can influence how we show up in the present moment.

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