Our programs are comprised of direct services for survivors of violence, and community-building programs to engage our constituents to form a powerful movement for peace.


Our direct services include our nationally recognized shelter program, language advocacy program, crisis line, case management, and programs in support of underserved communities such as queer Asian survivors and trafficked survivors. 


Shelter Program

AWS is dedicated to meeting the urgent needs of survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking. We welcome survivors of all backgrounds though we specialize in the needs of Asian Pacific Islander individuals and families. Our services offer long-term solutions to ending homelessness, poverty and domestic violence with a holistic, survivor-centered approach that strives to be both linguistically and culturally competent.

A resident of AWS is provided with:

Safe, confidential housing Emergency services, including food, clothing and ongoing health services Multilingual support and culturally competent services Intensive case management Individual and group support Coordination of support services such as legal advocacy and assistance, transportation, counseling, training/employment, and mentoring Follow-up services, including resources to establish permanent or transitional housing. The average stay for residents is three months. However, recognizing the overwhelming hardships that survivors often face after leaving domestic violence, including homelessness, poverty, as well as immigration and legal hurdles, we evaluate length of stay on a case by case basis.

Language Access

We provide services in 41 languages, including:

  • Arabic
  • Bengali
  • Burmese
  • Cantonese
  • Chao-Shou
  • Dutch
  • Farsi
  • French
  • Gujarati
  • Hebrew
  • Hindi
  • Hmong
  • Hokkien
  • Illocano
  • Indonesian
  • Japanese
  • Javanese
  • Kannada
  • Khmer
  • Korean
  • Lao
  • Mandarin
  • Malay
  • Mon
  • Mongolian
  • Nepali
  • Portuguese
  • Punjabi
  • Russian
  • Shanghainese
  • Spanish
  • Tagalog
  • Taiwanese
  • Tamil
  • Telugu
  • Thai
  • Tibetan
  • Toisanese
  • Urdu
  • Vietnamese
  • Yeo Chieu

This extensive support is made possible by our nationally recognized Multi-Lingual Access Model (MLAM) Program. AWS recruits bilingual, bicultural women from un-served and underserved communities to become paid language advocates (MLAMs) and facilitate critical services for our clients. Serving as a communication bridge between advocates and residents, they provide emotional support for residents and accompany them to important meetings, such as immigration or medical appointments, court hearings, and legal proceedings. We also provide training to help other organizations across the country replicate this program.

Additionally, AWS is the lead agency for San Francisco's city-wide MLAM program, providing services to seven anti-violence agencies including Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach (APILO), Brennan House, Clara House, Gum Moon Women's Residence, Narika, Rosalie House, and WOMAN, Inc.

Crisis Line

AWS has a 24-hour, confidential, toll-free crisis line:


Trained crisis line workers respond to calls and connect callers with language advocates when needed. Callers can get over-the-phone support, safety planning, access to AWS services, and information and referrals.

Case Management

Each resident at the shelter works closely with a Women's or Children's Advocate to address their short-term and long-term needs and goals. They are supported through intensive individual case management, counseling sessions, medical/mental health/immigration appointments, the facilitation of safe, enjoyable outings and transition assistance into permanent housing.

Mothers receive weekly one-on-one parenting consultations and advocates work to support the strengthening of the mother-child bond and to create healthy, sustainable relationships between them. They are given the opportunity to share concerns regarding their children with both staff members and other residents during weekly support group meetings.

Queer Asian Women + Transgender Support

Anti-immigrant sentiment and homophobia are rearing up in the forms of frightening policies and national attitudes every day. Conditions that contribute to intimate partner violence (IPV) are deepening and spreading. Asian & Pacific Islander (API) LGBQT people, particularly those who are immigrants or refugees, already tend to be among the most invisible and underserved in our society. When experiencing violence, they have few, if any, places to turn. Their marginalization is compounded-not only as an immigrant or refugee but also from the existence of their LBQT relationship itself.

Since its creation in 1991, Asian Women's Shelter's Queer Asian Women and Transgender Support (QAWTS) Program, one of the first and only programs of its kind in the nation, has been at the forefront in addressing intimate partner violence in the LBTQ community. In addition to providing comprehensive services for queer survivors of violence, QAWTS works on innovative programs and prevention strategies.

QAWTS utilizes a two-part prevention model. The overall goal is to shift socio-cultural norms from those that justify or allow violent behavior between intimate partners to new norms that promote non-violent, healthy relationships. API queer immigrant and refugee leadership are integrated throughout the program so that the program is by and for the community. The two program components include:

Chai Chats, which supports API LBQT community members to practice and promote healthy relationships through a 10-session cycle of community-centered training, dialogue, and skills-building. Each session focuses on concrete skills for modeling, nurturing, and promoting practices of healthy relationships. Chai Chats offers a safe space to explore the complex issues surrounding queer relationships. This year, due to popular demand, we expanded Chai Chats to the East Bay.

Homophobia Busters - Homophobia and transphobia are major barriers to seeking help and resources for queer relationship violence. Homophobia Busters trains and activates cohorts of anti-homophobia allies within API immigrant and refugee communities. These allies, many of whom are heterosexual, directly address homophobia and heterosexism in their social networks, reducing isolation of API LGBTQ individuals and relationships, creating increased social support for the API LGBQT community and reducing the incidence of IPV.

QAWTS is currently undergoing an extensive and exciting evaluation supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Strengthening What Works initiative.

Anti-Trafficking Program

As a co-founder of the Asian Anti-Trafficking Collaborative (AATC), we help provide legal and social services to trafficked people, including assistance with visas, shelter, case management, interpretation, advocacy and independent living skills. We are very active in building and participating in coalitions to end domestic violence and human trafficking of all kinds, including forced labor, domestic servitude and sexual exploitation. AATC also provides training and technical assistance to build awareness and response among other community-based organizations and participates in task forces and cross-trainings with local, state and federal government systems.

Ngoc Thi Pham Fund

In 2011, we were honored and thrilled to announce an educational scholarship program, thanks to donor Steve Ngo. Steve wrote us, "In 2010, my mother would have turned 50. In her memory, I would like to establish the Pham Fund at Asian Women's Shelter, a pilot fund that is specifically designated for domestic violence survivors like her, and their children. It will be used to support them in seeking a vocational certificate or a college degree." Initial fundraising efforts raised over $3,000 for the Pham Fund, which will be disbursed to residents for school supplies, textbooks, tuition, and other education-related expenses. We are pleased to announce that the Pham Fund will continue as an annual scholarship fund for past, current and future residents at AWS.


Our non-direct services include initiatives aimed at engaging our communities to effect positive change: Public Awareness, Grassroots Mobilization, Systems Advocacy & Change and Capacity Building. 

Public Awareness

We create public awareness about domestic violence and human trafficking by conducting Community Education and Outreach.


Asian Women's Shelter has a longstanding commitment to facilitating community dialogue and learning. If you would like to organize a community education event on any of the topics below (or more), please contact us!

  • Anti-trafficking
  • Cultural Competency
  • Domestic Violence 101
  • Language Access & AWS's Multilingual Access Model
  • LGBTQ Cultural Competency / Anti-homophobia and heterosexism
  • Power, Privilege and Oppression (Anti-Oppression 101)


AWS is committed to breaking the silence that perpetuates violence against women. Building public awareness is the essential first step in encouraging communities in prevention and intervention. We strive to make our response public, so that our visibility emboldens others in our communities to take a stand.

Many survivors who are marginalized cannot access support and services, so we make a concerted effort to make ourselves an accessible resource. We do this in a variety of ways:

  1. We make outreach and visibility an organizational commitment; all staff, volunteers, language advocates,relief workers and interns contribute to this core effort.

  2. We table at community fairs where people do not automatically expect a connection to domestic violence.

  3. We participate in community events like Dyke March and San Francisco Pride to build the visibility of AWS's Queer Asian Women & Transgender Support program.

  4. We participate in marches and actions that reflect our values. For example, AWS participated in the anti-war marches in 2002-2003 and created a banner in order to show that AWS as an anti-violence organization was showing up to call out for peace and a de-escalation of violence.

  5. We speak at events, conferences, to media outlets, via print media, etc. to spread our messages to our communities.

  6. We create accessible educational and resource materials and then distribute them broadly to the places where our community members are.

Grassroots Mobilization

AWS is proud to engage our active constituents in the movement against violence. We do this through Chai Chats, Multilingual Digital Storytelling, Volunteer/MLAM Mobilization, Community Action Teams and Creative Interventions.


Chai Chats is a safe and confidential initiative that reaches out to the Asian and Pacific Islander lesbian, bisexual, queer, and transgender communities to equip them with tools and strategies for practicing and promoting healthy relationships in all areas of their lives.

Participants learn and share skills and strategies for healthy, happy relationships. They also explore how communication practices, attachment styles, temperament differences, positive and negative feedback cycles, responses to conflict, trans/homo/bi/phobia and learned violence can factor into their relationships and lives.

AWS is committed to engaging and mobilizing its constituency to break the silence that surrounds domestic violence against these marginalized communities. We work to change the societal and cultural norms that perpetuate violence, into those built off of equality, non-violence and the respectful use of power.

Please contact us to learn more about Chai Chats!


The stories of immigrant and refugee women's experiences of violence are usually unheard. In collaboration with the Center for Digital Storytelling, AWS launched a pilot project in 2006 with the goal of creating a space for advocates and survivors of violence to share their stories using the creative tools of digital imagery and audio recording.

Built from the natural storytelling and oral traditions of many Asian Pacific Islander and immigrant communities, this program is based on the simple premise that individuals gain from making stories and communities gain from experiencing them.

The Multilingual Digital Storytelling Project helps transcend language barriers and bring to light the hidden and unrecognized experiences of immigrant survivors of domestic violence. Participants are equipped with new technical skills and a safe, supportive environment where they can craft and share their stories.

Participants create every aspect of their digital story and the power of their voice helps foster awareness of violence against API women, shape policy and inspire viewers to social action. When developing their story, they make informed decisions regarding confidentiality so that their message can reach far and wide, impacting diverse audiences while also preserving their safety and confidentiality.

Digital stories have been used in local and national trainings for community members, advocates, law enforcement, and government workers.


Our volunteer and language advocates are made up of multicultural/multilingual women from local communities. They attend over 70 hours of training to become educated anti-violence activists and domestic violence counselors. They are agents of support within the walls of AWS and are agents of change within their communities.

AWS utilizes volunteers and language advocates in a variety of grassroots anti-violence efforts, ranging from outreach at language or community-specific events to facilitating community dialogues.


As part of our commitment to using our organizational power responsibly and supporting local and community-based efforts to address violence, AWS supports Community Action Teams (CATs). These teams often emerge organically, formed by our volunteer and language advocates who have knowledge of pressing needs, current issues and creative opportunities in their communities. They work on projects or initiatives that are grounded in their own skills and capacity.

CATs can have a voice and a power in their communities that, most often, outsiders do not. One example is of the Filipina Advisory Committee:

In the early 1990's a few board, staff, volunteers, language advocates, former residents, and community members of Filipina descent formed the Filipina Advisory Committee. They named themselves and functioned as a support group and community awareness team. They rotated meetings at one another's homes, cooking together, sharing stories and planning community awareness activities.

During this period, one of the members was attacked by her former husband. She had opened a restaurant and her ex-husband entered and stabbed both her and her parents in front of her children. He was also injured in the attack.

The systems and community failed her in their subsequent actions. The ambulance took both victim and perpetrator together and treated her ex-husband first. After his arrest, his family rallied the Filipino community to raise his bail money, framing the situation as one of community vs. law enforcement.

The Filipina Advisory Committee responded to this injustice by launching a public awareness campaign in the Filipino community to promote community understanding about domestic violence. Their leadership made a tremendous impact on changing community norms, systems, and laws to increase the safety and visibility of survivors of domestic violence.

Some of their accomplishments include:

  • Authoring a book, A Community Secret: the Story of Two Filipinas, which was printed by AWS and distributed for free at Filipino businesses
  • Forming a court watch to support the survivor and her family
  • Putting on a forum for one hundred Filipino community leaders about domestic violence
  • Submitting their stories as testimony for passage of the immigrant provisions of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
  • Making a film documentary
  • Helping advocate for changes to ambulance protocol


AWS has been a collaborative partner of Creative Interventions, an Oakland-based initiative centered on developing and sharing concrete tools to support everyday people to address violence.

AWS works with representatives from Creative Interventions, Shimtuh, Narika and La Clinica de la Raza to develop tools to address and transform violence in their communities through three years of on-the-ground work supporting community members. AWS is working with Creative Interventions to craft that on-the-ground experience into a toolkit - a practical and useful resource for those doing community-based violence interventions.

Systems Advocacy + Change

AWS believes it has a responsibility to prevent systems from revictimizing the communities we serve. We use our organizational power to change institutions and systems until they meet the needs of everyone. The voices and experiences of our constituents are brought to the forefront of efforts to advance services and response to survivors of violence. This is done through:

Direct interventions Domestic Violence training for law enforcement Collaboration with the legal system Legislation advocacy COALITIONS & COLLABORATIONS AWS strongly believes in developing meaningful partnerships in order to offer more comprehensive services and advocate effectively for the legal, cultural, and societal changes that matter to our communities. We seek to avoid the duplication of services and build a cohesive, diverse network of resources for survivors who are seeking support. By encouraging community collaboratives, we help break down the isolation and create a community response toward ending violence against women.


Capacity Building


AWS has a long-standing commitment to building the capacity of other organizations. In doing so we strengthen programs and partnerships, diminish organizational isolation and build the momentum and power of a social justice movement to end violence against women. We understand the importance of building the capacity of both anti-violence organizations and other agencies to become allies in the movement. For example, we have:

Provided trainings to a San Francisco public high school group called Young Asian Women Against Violence. Community education, workshops and trainings help participants understand what healthy relationships look like and how to respond when violence happens. Provided training to monks at a local Thai temple to understand domestic violence so they can provide support and resources to women survivors. AWS provides training and technical assistance nationally and internationally on anti-oppression frameworks and practices, anti-homophobia, cultural competency, language access and on the intersection of domestic violence and anti-trafficking work.


AWS believes in sharing information and resources to strengthen the widespread efforts to end violence. To that end we launched the National Peer-to-Peer Technical Assistance (TA) program in 2002 to provide technical assistance and support to organizations in the United States that are focused on domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and stalking. Our unique peer-to-peer model allows us to tailor the training based on the program and/or organizational development needs of particular organizations.

Through this national and international work, we share globally and act locally to help break the sense of isolation experienced by local groups scattered across the country and the world. We have designed the peer-to-peer program to connect advocates and activists. We visit participant groups in their own neighborhoods and communities; in this way, we deepen relationships, strengthen technical assistance and empower each other to address the particular needs of our own communities.

Through funding from the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), AWS works with 5 - 7 agencies each year and provides more limited support (i.e., via e-mail/phone) to 20-50 agencies annually.


After each 12-16 month cycle of peer-to-peer technical assistance, AWS hosts a powerful peers forum at which representatives from participating organizations come together to engage in meaningful dialogue, strategy-sharing and movement building work.

For our 4th Powerful Peers forum in March 2009, AWS brought together representatives from former as well as current peer-to-peer TA sites. Almost all former sites sent representatives to attend the three-day forum.