Emergency Exit
July 13, 2020

Inside Scoop: Working in a Domestic Violence Shelter

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 it like to work in a domestic violence shelter?

Working in a domestic violence shelter is a very unique experience. Various team members of Women’s Advocates (WA) share their experiences with working in a domestic violence shelter.

Mary Beth- Crisis and Resource Advocate

Something is always happening here! It is a space where families live, learn, and gather, so there’s a pretty high level of activity most days. And yes, it can be chaotic at times, but I’ve never once been bored.

Saran- Mental Health Therapist 

Rewarding, I feel fortunate to work with wonderful competent staff who provide excellent resources and services to women and children with grace and compassion. Some years ago, I worked as a mental health case manager providing in-home services to families. During the winter months, I often wondered, how convenient it would be to meet with families in a huge house with onsite services. It’s amazing how this came to past. Even though, WA is a shelter, it has the comforts of a loving home.   

JoAnn- Director of Operations & HR

Coming to WA from a corporate setting was a big shift.  It is smaller & being located in beautiful homes on Grand Ave gives it a very comfortable feel.  The best part is the energy of all the little kiddos running around.

Nisha- Housing Advocate

It’s great! I struggle with the fact that women have had to go through some type of abuse to get here however I constantly give them verbal praise for getting out when they did.

Kelly- Children’s Advocate 

So many things: a tornado of feelings – Rewarding, Hopeful, Challenging , Emotional , Loving , Teamwork, Supporting, and always changing. 

Jill- Crisis and Resource Advocate 

I have worked in two domestic violence shelters, Alexandra House ( 1989-1991) and Women’s Advocates. I enjoyed both. Both provided services to victims in a kind compassionate way. Both programs were well run.

Amy- Overnight Family Advocate 

It’s bustling! We have around 50 beds under normal circumstances. That’s a lot of folks living in very close proximity! When we get on, the kids are all (supposed to be) in bed and the women are up in the living room, enjoying some adult bonding time.  They’ll be laughing, telling stories, sharing, having snacks.  It’s usually pretty joyful and convivial.

It can also be quite painful sometimes.  We take a lot of crisis calls, from a lot of different people in different circumstances. Oftentimes, the shelters are all full and then you’re offering resources, helping with building a safety plan, listening to survivors tell their stories, and encouraging them. Connecting them to legal and medical organizations that may be of help to them.  Staying with them on a conference call with police.  You have to get very good at self-care and grounding your own vicarious trauma in order to keep doing good work. 

Sam- Family Advocate

There’s a poem I found once I think that does a good job of summing up the experience: Being an advocate means you will never be bored. You will be frustrated, you will be surrounded by challenges. So much to do and so little time. You will step into people’s lives and make a difference. You will plant seeds. Some will bless you, some will curse you. You will never cease to be amazed at people’s capacity for love, courage, and endurance. You will experience resounding triumphs and devastating failures. You will see firsts and lasts. You will laugh a lot, you will cry a lot. You will know what it is to be human and humane. (Author unknown).

Brenisen- Education and Outreach Coordinator 

The majority of my work is done outside of the shelter and within community spaces; however, the times that I am in the shelter, I am filled with gratitude for our incredible family advocates that are fiercely passionate and resourceful. The energy of the shelter is always high and the little kids running around always bring a smile to my face. When I walk through the doors, I feel sufficiency, strength, compassion, community, and trust fill the space. It is a very purposeful working environment.

Kay- Family Advocate

Working in a residential facility means you get the opportunity to work with families as a whole unit, which is something I really enjoy.

You’re also there to provide support for all of the big and small ups and downs that occur in the first couple of months after a victim/survivor leaves an abusive partner.

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