For more than 30 years, the Hammond-based Haven House has been providing a emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence.
The facility has expanded and now offers two levels of care. In addition to a 21-bed emergency facility, it now includes a duplex which provides transitional care to two families in need of more in-depth assistance.
“The emergency shelter has been our signature piece, but it is on only meant to be short term,” said Lisa Wein, the facility’s executive director. “People can stay in our emergency shelter for 45 days, but that’s not a lot of time.”
During a 45-day emergency stay, traditionally that is only enough time to stabilize safety, start looking for job leads, and take other basic steps towards self-sufficiency.
Now, in the transitional housing, the two families living in the duplex can stay between 18 months and two years, she said.
“It provides the family with a more gradual process,” she said. “It gives them more of a chance to stabilize and take better care of themselves and their children. It is a whole different level of care, and it is a significant step for us.”
The transitional housing duplex has its first set of tenants, one family who has been in the duplex for about six months, and the other for about four, she said.
The families are receiving services that can’t be provided in depth during an emergency stay as well as benefiting from the enhanced security of the facility.
They are receiving training in budgeting and financial independence as well and self-sufficiency, as well as securing counseling services for the women as well as their children.
“At 45 days, people can’t even visualize their next step because they’ve been busy stabilizing their safety. We‘ve been talking about a safety plan, reassuring them they‘re in a safe place and going over options,” she said. “In some cases, people have never lived on their own before, they have gone from their family to their abuser and need some sense of what it is like to live on their own. They need help creating a savings plan and help picking and choosing between wants and needs.”
It is also important to provide care and reassurance for the children involved.
“We talk a lot about the moms, but reassuring the kids and providing them with the services they need is just as important,” she said. “We need the kids to get comfortable, and help them understand they are safe.”
Whether the families are in the emergency shelter or transitional care, Haven House offers domestic violence services for victims and their children. In addition to emergency housing, they also provide the essentials for living as well as support services for the victims and their children.
In the fiscal year ending June 2014, Haven House helped 303 women and children. There was a 30 percent increase in terms of “bed utilization,” meaning the number of nights people stayed.
The facility was overwhelmed between October through January, she said, with people needing to remain longer than what was typical. She said this year is shaping up to be the same.
That means a higher need for canned goods, toilet paper, paper towels, deodorant and other supplies.
There’s also a need for supplies for children, including diapers and wipes and underpants.
“We need to keep up with things that you and I take for granted. Sometimes it sounds like it isn’t a lot, but it does really add up,” she said.
The needs add up, but Wein said Haven House is fortunate to have a good base of donors to help.
“We have been very fortunate, because community organizations, churches and other groups have been so helpful with donations,” she said. “But no matter how many donations you get, a 30 percent increase in the number of people staying the night is a lot, and there’s no such thing as turning a person away.”
Wein said another issue is the number of older people seeking assistance, and also people with medical issues and no insurance.
“We have had an onslaught of people with medical issues and needing medications, some of whom have no insurance and we have to find ways to assist them,” she said. “We ask for $5 Wal-Mart gift cards, because that $5 card can help someone who needs a $4 prescription.”
In the future, there is talk of building another duplex to provide transitional housing for two more families, she said, in addition to providing the best care possible in the emergency shelter.
“We’d like to do another duplex, because it’s important to provide a bridge from emergency shelter to permanent housing,” she said. “It’s important to help people not only find something, but help them have the skill level to sustain it.”
Like any other nonprofit organization, that decision will be based on the success of the current transitional housing duplex as well as the funding that’s available.
The first duplex was built after about 10 years of fundraising, and was paid for upfront with no mortgage.
“We will see how the first one goes, but it has always been in the back of our heads to add another duplex,” she said. “It will depend on if it’s financially feasible. But we will still dream big and take leaps of faith to accomplish out goals.”