Wise Hope Shelter & Crisis Center deals with some extremely tense situations involving family abuse and sexual assault.
New offices won’t change that – but at least they’ll have a little more elbow room.
The nonprofit agency cut a ribbon Monday on their new headquarters at 608 Business 287 in Decatur. The offices are situated in what was a small house near the north end of town. With a reception area, a kitchen, restroom and several offices, it replaces a two-room suite at 201 Trinity Street.
“Ginger [Johnson] didn’t even have a door, just a curtain,” said Program Director Ronnie McIlroy, who has been with the agency since it started. “This house belonged to Monte Shaw. Lynn heard it was for sale, and they gave us a good deal.”
McIlroy said it didn’t need much work – just a few modifications to meet handicapped specifications, an adjacent concrete parking pad and a portable storage building. With the note on their resale shop in Bridgeport recently paid off, they were able to shift funding to buy the house without busting the budget.
A good-sized crowd of well-wishers moved in and out of the place Monday afternoon, enjoying a reception hosted by the Decatur Womens’ Club – one of the agency’s key supporters.
“The offices were desperately needed,” McIlroy said. “This is where you’d come to access the shelter or any of our other services.”
The shelter, located in a restored 1880s railroad hotel in the Bridgeport area, is the main focus of Wise Hope’s work. Women who need to get themselves or their children out of an abusive situation have a place to go – a place that offers seven private bedrooms and can serve as many as 35 people at a time.
The “other services” include a 24-hour hotline, a crisis intervention program, resource referral counseling, social services, transportation, support groups and education.
“Shelter is important, but other services are needed, too,” McIlroy said. “Some people have family support, but still don’t have the knowledge to work through all the legal, financial, the other problems that come along with getting out of an abusive situation.
“When they leave, they’re leaving income – half, or in many cases all of the income – and they’re usually involved in the legal system. We’re not lawyers, but we can help people navigate the system, advocate for them, help connect them to the help they need.”
She noted that one client recently left a 4,000-square-foot home for a garage apartment.
“It’s a big lifestyle change,” she said.
With the new offices, the Crisis Center gets a lifestyle change of its own that should allow it to do even more to stop abuse before it happens.
“We used to be just reactive,” she said. “We felt like we were a Band-Aid, running around trying to stop the bleeding. Now we’re proactive.”
She cited the recent Men Against Abuse event held here as a good example of that kind of educational, awareness-raising effort.
“Men are where it will stop,” she said. “We have to teach our sons that that’s not acceptable.”
Ginger Johnson, the agency’s bilingual victim advocate and community education coordinator, teaches a “Healthy Relationships” class for everyone who accesses the shelter and takes it into several area school districts as well.
Wise Hope Crisis Center serves Wise, Jack and Montague counties. For more information, to volunteer or to donate, contact McIlroy, Executive Director Pat Slayton or Johnson at 940-626-4855 or visit the web site www.wisehope.org.
Those who feel they are in eminent danger are encouraged to call the 24-hour crisis hotline at 940-626-4855, dial 911 for emergency assistance or go to the nearest law enforcement agency.
To be eligible for services, a client must be physically, emotionally, or sexually abused by a partner, former partner or another family or household member.