United Way At Work
If heightened awareness can lead to change, then this month’s National Domestic Violence Awareness campaign should be more than symbolic. It follows a rather tumultuous September in which four NFL players made headlines associated with domestic violence. The NFL stories have launched a national dialogue, but those cases can seem removed from everyday life. And yet domestic violence is part of everyday life right here in Central Florida.
“Harbor House alone helps over 20,000 people a year through all of its services,” says Harbor House of Central Florida CEO Carol Wick. United Way helps fund the Harbor House emergency shelter, one of the largest such shelters in the country. While its primary function is to keep people who are in the most danger of domestic violence safe, the Harbor House emergency shelter provides much more than a hiding place. It provides DCF-certified crisis childcare and after school care for the children staying there. There’s help with food, clothing and counseling for both women and the children who’ve witnessed violence so that inter-generational cycles of violence can be broken. Additionally, when a person calls the Harbor House 24-hour crisis hotline (407)-886-2856, they’re put in contact with a state-certified domestic violence advodate, and that, Wick says, makes a significant difference.
“When you have contact with a certified domestic violence advocate, your survival rate is 98%, that’s really powerful,” says Wick.
Here’s what you may not know about the United Way-funded program at Harbor House.
• 1,300 men, women and children enter the emergency shelter each year*
• 50% of those are children under the age of five
• 55% of the women helped by Harbor House are employed
• 80% of all child abuse cases involve domestic violence
• 88% of pets in violent households are either abused or killed
Because the impact of domestic violence is so broad, Harbor House began expanding services several years ago. It built the Paws for Peace Kennel so that victims wouldn’t feel the need to stay with an abuser in order to protect a pet. Now victims of domestic violence can evacuate their pets with them. Likewise, men escaping domestic violence now have their own emergency shelter at Harbor House.
“Men can be victims of domestic violence in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships, so it’s critically important they know they can be safe,” says Wick.
Harbor House’s Emergency Shelter receives direct funding from United Way, which not only supports the shelter, also allows Harbor House to draw down both state and federal money to help abuse victims.
Domestic violence is a public safety issue, as evidenced by recent workplace killings in which abusers attacked innocent bystanders along with their intimate partners. In September 2012, Michelet Polynice fatally shot his estranged girlfriend and a co-worker while they worked at Quality Suites, then went to Westgate Resorts to shoot his ex-girlfriend’s best friend before killing himself. In October 2012, Bradford Baumet stormed into the Casselberry salon where his estranged girlfriend worked, killing three of her co-workers and critically injuring her before killing himself. That’s what makes the Harbor House Emergency Shelter program vitally important.
“The more people we can help, the safer we make the community,” says Wick.
*Harbor House assists 1,000 men a year through its various programs