By Cecilia Hernandez, Shelter Manager/Victim Advocate
At 3 a.m., an SOS advocate’s phone rings. Helpline staff is on another line stating an advocate is needed at a residence for a domestic dispute or at the hospital for a sexual assault. An SOS advocate arrives within 15 minutes to provide support for the victim. At SOS, safety is our primary concern, which often means utilizing our SOS Crisis Shelter.
The SOS Crisis Shelter is also known as the Battered Women’s Home or Women’s Safe House, but in reality, at our shelter we house men, women and children.
The shelter has been open since April 1, 1985. We can currently house up to 21 individuals including cribs and playpens. Our goal is to provide a safe and comfortable short-term living environment for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and human trafficking.
Once a client is brought into the shelter, an advocate meets the client. Some clients come with only the clothes on their back, so an advocate assists the client by providing them with clothing from our clothing closet. Along with the clothing, SOS provides clients with personal hygiene products donated to the shelter, like shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, lotion, hair brush, etc. SOS also provides clients with donated food from our food pantry.
While at the shelter, the client and advocate work together to create a plan based on the client’s needs. The plan may include assisting with funding resources for bus tickets, housing or job searching. For clients staring over with new housing, SOS provides furniture, appliances and dishes all donated by the community. Advocates also assist with writing resumes, practicing interview skills and providing formal clothing for interviews.
Support, financial and fitness groups, house meetings and one-on-one advocate meetings are provided to residents as needed. The shelter provides a safe and comfortable homey feel.
Protocols are in place to ensure safety of residents and staff. Each client/family is assigned their own room, because sharing a room with strangers after a traumatic event can hinder the healing process. Each floor has a playroom where kids can enjoy toys, board games, puzzles, educational movies or a quiet reading area. We recently received a grant to give children books when they leave the shelter. In addition, a swing set, garden and grill have been donated for residential use. On the main floor, support staff and residents get together to cook and eat family dinners. Most residents look forward to this time as it provides a welcomed family feel.
SOS, with the help of the community, can provide a safe and comfortable environment for victims to thrive.