Wise Hope Shelter and Crisis Center released the balloons in downtown Decatur at midday Monday, Oct. 1, to mark the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“Perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of domestic violence is that people think it happens to poor, uneducated druggies,” said Pat Slayton, the center’s executive director. “Domestic violence is much like cancer. It goes across all races, gender and socioeconomic categories.
“You’d be surprised by those you might see there,” she said of the people they serve.
In fiscal year 2012, which ended in August, the center served 280 females and 60 males. Most of those served were adults ages 17 to 64, but 76 children were also served. She reported hotline calls were up 1,006 to a total of 3,710 calls.
The organization serves Jack, Montague and Wise counties, but the bulk of their clients are from Wise.
A total of 167 people were sheltered for an average of 12.52 days. Slayton said this number is misleading because the shortest stay was 75 minutes, and the longest stay was 122 days.
There is no maximum stay, as long as the client continues to meet criteria and is working on a specific plan to get back on their feet. Slayton said the average client seeking shelter stays 30 to 45 days.
“We want people to realize that this is not a homeless shelter,” she said, “but 75 to 80 percent of homelessness in women can be traced back to a domestic violence incident.”
In addition to the shelter, there is an outreach center in Decatur at 201 N. Trinity. Its hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and other times by appointment. Slayton said there are many victims who don’t need the shelter but do need access to the center’s services and programs to help them make a new life.
The center also operates The Hope Chest at 1015 Halsell St. in Bridgeport. It’s a resale shop that is open to the public and to Wise Hope clients. Slayton said they try to keep certain items in stock that clients need as they’re setting up a new household, but it’s open daily for all shoppers 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
They also accept donations of used items that they sell in the shop or give to Wise Hope clients. Any proceeds benefit the organization.
This month Wise Hope will put on a program, “In Her Shoes,” for the Decatur Woman’s Club. It’s a two-hour interactive exercise where participants take on the identity of an abuse victim and have to make a variety of choices in an effort to escape their “situation.”
“They see what a victim actually goes through,” Slayton said. “It’s a very powerful exercise, and it helps people understand why some people can’t just pick up and leave.”
If you would like Wise Hope to put on this program for your group, call Ginger Johnson at (940) 626-4585 or (940) 393-2884, which is also their bilingual number.
Slayton said the group also has a candelight vigil planned for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30, at Harwood Park near the bridge at the corner of 10th Street and Texas 114.
The board of directors for Wise Hope Shelter and Crisis Center are President Lynn Long, Vice President Gerre Joiner, Secretary Theresa Copeland and Treasurer Debbie Denney.
Board members are Lanora Joslin, Beverly Ross, Glenn Hornback, Cristina Schwabe, Terry McDaniel and Rex Hoskins.
Slayton also noted that in fiscal year 2012, volunteers worked 429,877 hours, which is the equivalent of 206 full-time employees.