Inside Scoop: Getting to Know the First Domestic Violence Shelter. In this series, you will hear from the many different voices that encompass Women’s Advocates. You will be able to read direct quotes from our advocates to gain a deeper understanding of our shelter and about domestic violence advocacy. Learn more about the descriptions of the various advocates and team members by clicking here.
What is a challenge that you face in this position?
While it is very rewarding to work at one of the first domestic violence shelters in the United States (read more about that here), we also face some significant challenges in doing this work. Various team members at Women’s Advocates discuss the different challenges that they face in their respective positions.
Sam- Family Advocate
Facing the reality that not every resident that leaves here is going to have housing. Some may be going to another shelter, and I can’t begin to explain how gut-wrenching that is. We aren’t a housing program, I know that we all know that, but I still always hope that everyone that leaves here can leave into safe, stable housing. When that doesn’t happen it’s sad and definitely disappointing. Additionally, you would think that three months is a lot of time to get things done, right? I’ve told people before that time seems to work differently in a shelter so that three months, it doesn’t feel like nearly enough time when you’re working with a resident. You may start something, like working on financial literacy, and even if you started working towards that goal on month one, you may not see how it winds up by the time that resident leaves, which can be so frustrating. I always have to remind myself that we’re planting seeds; we won’t be there to see the plant grow, but I know that we got them started.
Mary Beth- Crisis and Resource Advocate
Holding stories of other women’s traumatic experiences, and learning not to get bogged down in them. Secondary trauma is real, and it is so important for those of us who work directly with victim-survivors to have a strong support system, whether at or outside of work.
Saran- Mental Health Therapist
There are times when survivors flee their homes without their medication and experience withdraws (dizziness, fatigue, headaches, etc.). The challenge is scheduling appointments with a psychiatrist before survivors experience withdraws.
JoAnn- Director of Operations & HR
Just not having enough time to get everything done, but I think we all feel that way about our jobs, not matter where we work.
Nisha- Housing Advocate
Finding affordable units for people living in poverty. With all the strict guidelines most property management companies have in place it’s nearly impossible for the population I work for to sustain housing.
Kelly- Children’s Advocate
Them leaving and never knowing how they are.
Jill- Crisis and Resource Advocate
In all of the positions I have held including working for the State, you never know for sure whether you made a difference or not. When your done providing services the contact ends.
Amy- Overnight Family Advocate
One thing that is always challenging on the night shift is we don’t always get to meet all the families. We come on around 11 and leave by 7 so there are folks in our shelter—especially children— who we never get to see and interact with.
Brenisen- Education and Outreach Coordinator
A challenge that I face in this position is the feeling of never doing enough or being able to reach enough people. There is so much literature, so many toolkits, so many webinars with such vital information that can be overwhelming to sit with. Breaking the cycle of domestic violence is extremely complex and difficult. There are so many systemic, social, and psychological barriers that stand in the way. It can be a daunting mission, but I am constantly reminded of why it is a worthwhile feat whenever I meet a survivor or someone who found value in the educational information that I had to share.
Kay- Family Advocate
We do not operate in a bubble and other systems (such as the legal system, health care providers, social services, etc.) have a significant impact on the victim/survivors that we serve. Other systems do not always understand the dynamics of domestic violence or operate in the most trauma-informed way.
The affordable housing crisis in the Twin Cities is also a barrier to victim/survivors.
Another thing is that because we are an emergency shelter, residents only stay with us for 90 days and it can often feel like a very short window of time.