Several agencies and services are available in the region to help improve family relationships and ensure a safe environment for residents. Sometimes that means providing emotional support or plans to develop new goals.
Other times, it can mean providing emergency shelter for a family going through a hard time or trying to escape violence.
The Caring Place in Valparaiso helps those in some of the most difficult situations by providing shelter to domestic violence victims.
“We provide services for victims of domestic violence and try to have a community that is free of violence. Our motto is ‘If you can’t be safe at home, you can’t be safe anywhere,’” said Mary Beth Schultz, executive director of The Caring Place.
The organization has advocates in Lake, Porter and Starke counties to provide support for victims going through the courts and has a 25-bed shelter for women, men and children available to those escaping domestic violence in their home. It also recently developed a youth forum to help prevent teen dating violence.
The Caring Place offices are in a large building with the upper level occupied by women in single room dwellings transitioning from shelter situations to permanent housing.
The agency recently celebrated 35 years and has had the current shelter for the past 25 years. You can help support it by shopping at an upscale resale shop called Caring Designs at 3107 Cascade Drive in Valparaiso. Clients leaving shelter care who are creating a new home space select from the shop’s donated items. Sales of items purchased from the showroom by the public help fund Caring Place services.
For more than 40 years, the Crisis Center, based in Gary’s Miller neighborhood, has provided assistance to region residents in several areas, including helping youths improve relationships and providing emergency shelter for teens.
“We deal with a lot of children and their relationships with their parents or caregivers,” said Shirley Caylor, executive director. The teen years can be a difficult time where Caylor said they are testing their limits and looking to establish their own viewpoints.
“Sometimes they do that in contrast to what their parents believe,” said Caylor. “And it is surprising that in some cases, kids are more conservative than parents. Some kids complain about parents’ drug abuse and the effect on their family and the stresses they are under because of it.”
Emergency shelter is available for youths ages 10 to 18. It is the only facility in the northern part of the state to provide emergency shelter for those not in the child welfare system, said Caylor. The shelter is short term and can be utilized as long as 20 days, but efforts are usually made to resolve the situation sooner. While using the shelter, the Crisis Center can provide individual, group and family counseling.
The Crisis Center has close to 400 “safe place” sites in Lake and Porter counties, designated by a diamond-shaped sign on businesses and other places to identify them as places that kids can retreat to if they need help. Youths can go to these sites any time they feel they are unsafe. It can be if they feel they are being followed, need to escape peers that may be causing a threat, if they are avoiding a potentially violent situation at home or myriad other causes.
“One hundred ninety-six kids came in last year from almost every city and town in Lake County,” said Caylor. Staff from the Crisis Center is then dispatched to a site to help them.
Caylor said that another valuable service that is available to anyone and free is the agency's crisis contact line.
“It’s kind of like a confessional," she said. "You can talk about your problems and no one is going to go back and say ‘she told me.’”
About 5,000 calls were taken last year, with about 1,600 of them related to divorce.
The number also is linked to the national suicide prevention hotline. Nearly 400 of the crisis calls last year were suicide related.
“Fifty-nine were serious enough that we called authorities close to where that person was to intervene,” said Caylor. “They were actively suicidal. About 60 people lived who wouldn’t have if we weren’t answering the phone that day.”
For couples who would like to seek therapy or for children or adolescents in need of counseling, Purdue University Calumet’s Couples and Family Therapy Center provides services with fees on a sliding scale at a facility just off campus with care provide by graduate students seeking their master's degree in marriage and family therapy. The program also covers substance abuse and anger management cases. Services are open to anyone with the exception of court-mandated substance abuse cases from Illinois.
The Caring Place, 24-Hour crisis line is (219) 464-2128. The toll-free long distance line is (800) 933-0466
Lake County victim advocate: (219) 801-1590, Starke County victim advocate: (574) 772-2222, Porter County victim advocate: (219) 464-0840
The Crisis Center, crisis contact hotline: (219) 938-0900, toll free: (800) 519-0469, 24-Hour suicide hotline: (800) 273-8255
Purdue University Calumet’s Couples and Family Therapy Center: (219) 989-2027