Safe at Home Program

Authored By: Iowa Legal Aid


Beginning January 1, 2016, survivors of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and other violent crimes will be able to sign up for a new program to help keep them safe from their abusers. Safe at Home is a program that will give its participants a new address to use as a mailing address and for public records.

What is the Safe at Home program?

The Safe at Home program is an address confidentiality program through the Secretary of State’s office.

Who can apply to participate in Safe at Home?

Any adult who has suffered domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking, or stalking can apply to be part of Safe at Home. Family members or parents of a minor child that live with individuals who qualify may also apply. Participants must also be Iowa residents.

Participants must take some kind of action to hold the abuser accountable. These actions can include calling the police and cooperating to make a police report or filing for a civil protective order. Criminal charges, a criminal no-contact order, or a permanent protective order are not required in order to be part of the program.

A recent relocation of the participant is important. The program does not have the ability to redact any previous public records. If an applicant has already obtained a driver’s license, enrolled children in school, or registered to vote with her/his current address, this is all public record. Safe at Home will not be able to undo these records. 

How do I apply?

Individuals can apply by filling out a form created by the Secretary of State’s office. These forms will be available in December 2015. They can be found on the Secretary of State’s website, Iowa Coalition of Domestic Abuse offices, and Iowa Coalition against Sexual Assault offices throughout the state.  Other locations may be added.

What happens if I am approved?

Once an application is approved, the participant will receive a packet with the substitute address and a Safe at Home participation card. This card proves the person is in the program.

Where can I use my substitute address?

The substitute address can be used instead of the actual home address whenever a mailing address is required. For example, Safe at Home participants can use the substitute address on their driver’s license, photo identification, student records, employment records, library cards, and private mail. The substitute address can also be used at all city, county, and state offices, such as city clerks, county auditors, county treasurers, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Human Services.

What happens to my mail?

When a person or organization sends a piece of first-class mail, government or prescription packages to a participant at the substitute address, the Secretary of State’s office will accept the mail. The mail is forwarded to the participant at their actual address as soon as possible. There can be a delay of up to 5 business days. A participant’s actual address is kept confidential by the Secretary of State’s office at all times.

Is that all the office accepts?

No. The Secretary of State’s office will also accept court papers and other service of process documents on a participant’s behalf. The office will forward the court papers to the participant by certified mail. The participant must accept the certified letter.

What if there are deadlines contained in mail and I miss one?

It is possible with the delay that important deadlines may be missed.  Anyone with a court case in progress should register with the Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) and monitor Iowa Courts Online to ensure prompt notice of important deadlines. 

Can I use my substitute address to vote?

Once accepted into Safe at Home, participants can register to vote through the program and their registration will not be public record. County offices will not have access to these records. Instead, participants must register through the Secretary of State’s office.

In order to vote participants must request an absentee ballot each year. They cannot vote in person at the polls, as this is not a safe option.

Can I use my substitute address when renting an apartment?

Yes. Additionally, landlords will not be allowed to display a Safe at Home participant’s name and address together publicly, like on a mailbox.

Can I use my substitute address when purchasing a home?

The substitute address is not to be used for real estate records. Instead, participants are encouraged to set up legal entities like a trust or a limited liability company, to buy a home to make sure their home address stays private. If a participant decides to purchase a house Safe at Home staff recommends that you seek legal counsel.

How long does the program last?

A person will be part of the program for four years unless they withdraw or the Secretary of State cancels his or her participation. Individuals can renew participation, and can reapply if they are terminated from the program for any reason.

Why would my participation be canceled?

If mail is returned to the Secretary of State and the office cannot contact the participant, the Secretary of State’s office will cancel a person’s Safe at Home participation. The office may also cancel participation if the individual refuses certified mail that contains service of court papers. Safe at Home staff will also try to contact the participant before termination from the program occurs.

Anything else I should know?

Participants should make every effort to keep their own home address private to protect their safety. They should also be aware of what they post on sites like Facebook and Twitter to make sure their abuser cannot find them.

The Safe at Home program cannot erase past public records, even if the participant is still living at that address. It is important for participants to know that the Safe at Home program cannot protect individuals whose abusers know their whereabouts.

How do I apply?

  1. Contact an advocate or the Secretary of State’s office for more information:

515-725-SAFE (7233)

   2. Fill out an application and return it to the Secretary of State’s office at:

Safe at Home

321 E. 12th Street

Des Moines, IA 50319

   3.  If certified, you will be notified by the Secretary of State’s staff and get a participation packet.

   4.  Notify everyone of your new address.

  • Iowa Legal Aid provides help to low-income Iowans. 
  • To apply for help from Iowa Legal Aid:call 800-532-1275. 
  • Iowans age 60 and over, call 800-992-8161 or 
  • apply online at
If Iowa Legal Aid cannot help, look for an attorney on “Find A Lawyer” on the Iowa State Bar Association website   A private attorney there can talk with you for a fee of $25 for 30 minutes of legal advice.
*As you read this information, remember this article is not a substitute for legal advice.
Last Review and Update: Nov 06, 2015

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