Howard domestic violence agency opens fifth shelter for women, children New facility fills housing services gap

January 26, 1993|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

The Domestic Violence Center of Howard County opened its fifth shelter yesterday, increasing the number of beds for battered women and their children from 26 to 34.

The new, eight-bed shelter in Columbia will offer stays of up to five months for women who are ready to move beyond the initial crisis of leaving their abuser to more independent living.

Center officials say the shelter fills a gap in its housing services for displaced battered women by providing a step between emergency housing and long-term transitional housing, which allows a maximum stay of 18 months.

"It gives women and children the opportunity to adjust to a different life away from the abusive spouse, until they're ready to move on to the next step," said Terry Farrell, president of the board of the Domestic Violence Center.

He said the program is the first of its kind in the state and hopes that other shelters for abused women will use it as a model.

Currently, the center offers two kinds of housing options for battered women.

The center's eight-bed safe house provides emergency shelter to women who have just left abusive situations and offers a three-month stay with 24-hour-a-day staff supervision. Women who leave the safe house may stay an additional 18 months at the center's three transitional shelters, which provide intermittent counseling and allow women time to get back on their feet.

At the new shelter, where women may stay for five months, staff members will provide supervision and counseling on-site, seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"It gives them more time to hook up with services, get more settled and be over the initial crisis," said Pamela Dello-Russo, the center's transitional housing coordinator. "We feel it ties the whole program together."

The new shelter was funded through a $186,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The center was one of 103 agencies nationwide to receive such a grant, which HUD earmarked specifically for transitional housing.

Stephanie Sites, the executive director of the Domestic Violence Center, said she applied for the grant because many women who moved from the 24-hour supervision of the emergency shelter weren't ready for the independent environment of the existing transitional shelters.

"We're hoping this [shelter] will fill that need for people who aren't ready for that independence but don't need 24-hour supervision," Ms. Sites said.

She expects that half of the women who stay in the new shelter will move to the 18-month transitional shelter and half will be able to move into their own apartments or houses.

Ms. Sites said she hopes to have the shelter's first residents move in by the first week in February.

The Domestic Violence Center is renting the four-bedroom home. The entire house was furnished with donations from the community.

The house is light-filled and spacious. Creating a peaceful setting for shelter residents was important to the center staff. "It's hard enough to make major changes in your life without living in a depressing atmosphere," Ms. Sites said.

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