By Linda Kor
When a victim of domestic violence makes the decision to break the cycle of violence and reach out for help, Alice’s Place in Winslow has long been a refuge for those in need. It provides many services, including 24-hour crisis lines, shelter, advocacy and various educational programs, such as life skill classes. Recently Al-ice’s Place expanded its offerings to those in need to an additional location called Laura’s House.
Laura’s House is an extended stay shelter for those in transition as they adjust to a safer and more produc-tive life. The shelter is actually a home that can house up to six residents for up to 90 days.
Laura’s House was named for Laura Kislingbury, who was born and raised in Winslow. She was well loved by friends and family, but was brutally murdered by her husband after she tried to leave their violent relation-ship 30 years ago. Laura attended school with Theresa Warren, executive director of Alice’s Place. “Laura was a beautiful woman and when we opened this home, we knew she was the one we would name it for,” she said.
According to Warren, the board of directors started talking seriously in 2008 about a short-term housing facility, but didn’t know what that would look like. “We didn’t know if it would be apartments, motel rooms, a transitional setting. Another factor we needed to consider was community support. We were concerned that each neighborhood might think it’s a great idea, but not in their neighborhood,” stated Warren.
In the midst of these considerations, an opportunity arose that was more than the board expected. A home in the community was offered that could be used to temporarily house victims of violence. “We were able to do rehabilitation on the home and on Dec. 6 of last year, were able to open the home for six residents,” she said. Currently, the house is providing a home for two families, mothers and their children, but on occasion it could be six separate women or a mix of a family and single women.
“Aside from a few weeks in April, the house is always full. We’re not just a homeless shelter, though; we go beyond that. These women and sometimes children have been subjected to physical, emotional and/or verbal abuse. When they come to us they’re traumatized and they need time to figure out the next step,” noted Warren.
Once they come to the home, they immediately receive the basics, a warm bed, good food and safety. Then each person is assessed for their needs, whether it’s filling out applications for housing, a job, court proceedings or counseling. It could be learning basic skills, such as budgeting, shopping and preparing foods, or even exer-cise. “If someone has issues with alcohol or drugs, we try to offer them alternatives for healthier choices, such as exercise and proper diet. If they are addicted to drugs such as meth, we direct them to detox and rehabilita-tion first, and once they go through that, then we see what we can provide for them here,” she explained.
According to Warren, simple tasks such as filling out paperwork and making decisions regarding where to go next can be too overwhelming for someone responding to a traumatic event. Many women coming from do-mestic violence situations are very uncertain of what their capabilities are. “The bottom line is that it won’t work if you don’t let it. At the initial intake we can anticipate higher risks, which is good to recognize. It just means that their plan needs stronger language, but none of that matters if they’re not ready for change. We hear comments like, ‘I just need a break’ versus ‘I’ve had it, I’m done,’ which means they’re more connected. But a break is OK, too,” Warren said. “We can’t change their reality. It might be true. Statistics show that the average woman in an abusive relationship will leave seven times before she leaves for good. It’s like raising a lot of children, you always want what’s best for them but you have to let them make their own choices.”
While a smaller facility means fewer beds, it also means the ability to focus on the needs of the individual. Each client creates an action plan, a working document that is reviewed on a regular basis that allows the client to refocus and see the progress being made. “This allows the client to see that they can make good decisions. We try to avoid holding their hand too much, because we want them to become independent, but, of course, we provide any support they need,” commented Warren.
As Warren and the board try to increase their available services, they are limited by funding and are reach-ing out to those who may be willing to volunteer. The needs include babysitters for one to two hours a week so that mothers can attend classes and meetings, assistance in the thrift shop, administrative assistance, and teach-ing classes or workshops. “Having someone to teach a cooking class every couple of weeks would be terrific, or a yoga class. This could really help these women,” said Warren.
Those who would like to volunteer must undergo a fingerprint background check through the Department of Public Safety, a process that can take up to four weeks. According to Warren, they tend to lose people who are initially excited to volunteer, but lose their interest while they are waiting for the background check to clear, a requirement by the state to ensure the safety of their clients. Individuals with some criminal history that may include DUI or misdemeanor charges that did not include violence may be allowed to volunteer, and their in-formation is kept confidential. For more information on helping at either Laura’s House or Alice’s Place, con-tact Warren at (928) 289-3003.
By Linda Kor