What happens in shelter?

by Diane McDaniel Rhodes, former Chief Program Officer

Shelter-Front People ask about emergency shelter all the time. Either the idea of fleeing, or the idea of communal living strikes a chord of curiosity with most. The Kelly White Family Shelter was designed to offer survivors a place to begin to feel secure and hopeful for their future.  Community and support can be found in the shelter basics:

Shelter-Kitchen
  • Six areas (called clusters) hold 30 bedrooms total
    (5 rooms per cluster).
  • Each cluster shares a living, eating and cooking space.
  • Clients with kids stay in a room with their kids and someone without kids shares a room with another adult.
  • Each room has its own bathroom.

A typical day in our shelter may look something like this:

  • Depending on when kids have to be at school, or people have to be at work, everyone is generally awake and starting their day by 8:30 or 9:00 in the morning. There is no structured shelter schedule.
  • During the day a lot of people who live in the shelter are at school, at work, at court or taking care of errands that have to be done during business hours.
  • Monday through Friday there are specialized staff present:
    • Caseworkers to work on helping people obtain things like a protective order, food stamps, public housing and healthcare
    • Counselor to provide mental health support to individuals and in groups
    • Children’s staff to engage kids in homework, recreational activities and exercise
  • There is always staff present to assist with safety planning, help out with transportation, talk to people on the hotline, go with someone to the hospital for a rape exam, and provide basic needs.

Shelter living can be hard. Shelter-Balcony

  • On any given day, there may be up to 100 people living in the shelter and for the most part, they don’t know each other.
  • It is definitely a “no frills” kind of place. People have to share things like TV time and oatmeal.
  • People in the shelter don’t know where they are going to live in the immediate future and they can’t just go home. There is always a sense of urgency in the building.

Although it is hard, shelter can be sanctuary, albeit very temporary, and can also serve as a necessary step to a life free of violence.

To access shelter call our 24-hour Hotline: 512.267.SAFE (7233), our Hotline advocates are trained to assess the level of danger for everyone who calls for shelter and to find safe solutions.  For those not ready for the step of seeking shelter, advocates can help build a safety plan and give advice and information about all SafePlace programs.

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