The emergency domestic violence shelter run by the YWCA in Lucas County, Ohio, can provide safe housing for up to 46 people. On any given day, the shelter is generally at or over capacity.
“When somebody leaves, somebody else is coming in,” according to Sandee Quarles, Coordinator of Support Services at the shelter.
For more than 37 years, the shelter has provided refuge for women who are survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. The shelter also supports men who are victims of these crimes, but the vast majority of clients are women.
The only emergency domestic violence shelter within 100 miles of Toledo, it never turns anyone away. To accommodate everyone, staff sometimes set up cots to ensure they provide a safe haven for all victims.
But not everyone who comes to the shelter wants safe housing. So safety planning is a big part of the work done at the shelter. Staff members want individuals who remain in their dangerous situations to have the knowledge and ability to keep themselves safe.
The Bureau of Justice Assistance supports the domestic violence shelter through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program. Since 2014, the shelter has received $23,000 annually from JAG.
For Nora, a 34-year-old single mother of two, the staff at the shelter not only helped her to find safe housing, but ultimately helped her to break free from domestic violence.
Nora, whose name was changed for this story to protect her identity, was in an abusive relationship with a man who was not her children’s father. With no place to go and no family or friends to support her locally, Nora came to the shelter.
It was her second time working with the staff there—the first came after police arrested her abuser and took her to the shelter for assistance.
But this second time around, staff noticed something different in Nora’s demeanor.
“This was it for her,” said Jan Bruggeman, Director of the Domestic Violence Shelter. “This was it. She was going to make that final break and be successful.”
When Nora arrived at the shelter, children’s services temporarily removed her two children from her custody. But through working with staff at the shelter, she gained a local support system and an ally in regaining custody of her children, which she ultimately did.
Nora met regularly with her case manager, a child advocate, and a housing specialist. Later, she was connected with Lutheran Social Services for housing and was able to gain the necessary documents for permanent housing.
Without the help of the staff at the shelter, Nora said she doesn’t believe she would have been able to secure housing on her own.
“I am thankful for everyone that works there. They are all angels,” she said.
For others in a domestic violence situation similar to Nora’s, she advises them to seek out help.
“Nobody should live like that. The people at the domestic violence shelter can help you,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to ask them.”
Staff at the shelter added, “Nora’s determination and strength made a significant difference in helping her with accomplishing her goals and breaking free from domestic violence.”
Supporting Victims of Domestic Violence
Every month, the YWCA shelter sees about 30 walk-ins, answers about 80-85 crisis calls, and completes about 12-15 face-to-face assessments, which includes everything from immediate medical care to safety planning.
Most of the time, clients come into the shelter with nothing but the clothes on their backs, so some services provided by staff are simply to fill basic needs. Staff provide food, clothing, hygiene items, diapers, and other basic necessities.
While staff members at the shelter were able to help Nora find housing for herself and her children, Quarles said housing is just one piece of the puzzle and there is much more that goes into supporting women who are victims of domestic violence.
“You can do all of those housing pieces for them, but if they don’t have the support or the financial means to take care of it, they’re going to end up being right back at the shelter,” she said.
Other services offered at the shelter include assisting with the application process for benefits from agencies, such as Jobs and Family Services and Social Security. Additionally, the shelter provides children’s assessments and programming, education, community awareness, court advocacy and assistance with protection orders, transportation, support groups, and a safe space for endangered pets.
After survivors leave the shelter, YWCA staff provides outreach for an additional 6 months.
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