Loving Homeless Women & Children
Women often come to the Crisis Shelter fearful,
anxious. No one wants to come here: itís the
That was the situation when Penny* checked in.
She and her
children had fled an abusive partner. Her face
was still black and
blue from their last fight. When they arrived,
they were cold and
scared, and her daughter clung to her. Staff
got them warm
blankets and hot tea. They reassured Penny she
was safe and she
would be OK.
Pennyís response was, ďI feel broken. I donít
think Iíll ever be
right again.Ē Penny described feeling helpless
to do anything to
change the situation she was in.
The emotional and psychological scars are not
but Penny was worn down by abuse and the lies
she was told about
herself. She admits she often felt that she
deserved what she
got. She experienced difficulty sleeping at
night, anxiety, panic
attacks and sometimes self-harming acts as
result of the emotional
impact of the abuse. Grief, anger, and fear
encompassed her and
she had a low sense of self-worth.
We want the Crisis Shelter to be a safe haven,
a place of peace
and rest. Thatís what ladies experience when
they first check in.
They are given clean clothes, a place to
shower, food if they are
hungry: the bare essentials.
Staff and volunteers listen to them and try to
reassure them, but
it takes time to build trust. Homeless women
and children need
time, safety and a chance to build trust to
make good decisions
for their families.
TRAUMA AND ANXIETY
Children that witness domestic violence and
chaotic home lives
often ďact outĒ in an attempt to cope with
their emotions. Some
children perform well at school but scream at
siblings and mom and
throw fits at home.
Iíve witnessed an 8-year-old boy yell at his
criticizing her about everything she does. Iíve
seen a 7-year-old
girl that cries every morning before school and
clings to her mom
as the bus is waiting out front. There was a
suffers from migraines and withdraws from
sports and friends, who
finds it difficult to fall asleep at night and
even more difficult
to get up the next morning.
Though these behaviors present different
challenges, they have one
common thread: anxiety.
We desire to love our guests right where they
are, help them to
set goals for themselves and provide resources
and support in
reaching these goals. We want to come alongside
unconditional love and support and see them
experience healing and
Again I think of Penny, who came into the
shelter so broken. She
was defensive and easily provoked. Her kids,
too, were reacting
from the trauma they had experienced and were
often loud and
unruly, with frequent meltdowns.
Gradually, through consistent relationships
with staff and
volunteers, classes and chapel services,
Pennyís defenses started
to come down. She began to understand, open up,
and heal. She
began to parent in a different way. It wasnít
easy and took a lot
of work, but Penny was determined to be the
kind of mother her
children needed. Penny enrolled herself and her
counseling. She got connected in a local
church. Penny was able to
find employment, which greatly boosted her
I remember the day Penny came in to tell us she
had found housing.
Tears streamed down Pennyís face as she clung
to me and shared how
sad and bittersweet it was to leave this place.
Penny and her kids
still stop by now and again to donate clothes
and needed items,
never forgetting the fresh start they received
here. In fact,
Pennyís daughter did a service project for the
shelter through her
school and brought essentials and little extra
items for the
children that she remembers were helpful for
her when she was
The women who come into the Crisis Shelter feel
broken and crushed
by their circumstances and life experiences. It
takes a lot of
courage to come here. It takes tremendous
courage to start over
and begin to trust. But I see these women as
They are beautiful and caring mothers, sisters
despite the situations theyíve come from. Itís
a privilege to be
here for them.
*name changed for privacy.