Redefining Safe Housing

Nia’s Story: Redefining What Safe Housing Looks Like

Written by a Domestic Violence Safehouse Client Services Counselor

Housing is more than a physical structure; it is the place where you hope to feel safe, at least emotionally and physically. For a lot of our clients, home became a place filled with mixed emotions of pain, loss, confusion, and disempowerment. So when I speak about this client, Nia, I speak from a bigger picture, because finding her next step housing was not just about the physical apartment but redefining what safe housing looked like.

Thirty-year-old Nia came to the program after what could be considered one of the worst incidents. For her, that was being repeatedly hit over the head by her husband. She was eventually able to call the police, but her husband threatened to show injuries from the argument and have Nia deported. This is a common tactic of abusers: to threaten someone’s status—even though Nia is a citizen—or depict the survivor as an abusive partner.

When Nia called Doorways’ hotline and came to the Domestic Violence Safehouse, her emotions were raw. She had goals in mind and a plan, but the fear of her experience kept her awake at night, and the fear of seeing her husband or his family during the day would cause her to wear a hooded sweatshirt while walking down the street to hide her face just to feel safer. Yet, she still went to school, sometimes waking up at 5:00 a.m. to study and focus on the future.

During her time at the Safehouse, not only did she graduate from her classes with an A average, but passed the needed exams and obtained licensure. What many don’t realize, and what is important to remember, is that we are working to build relationships and repair clients’ trust in others. Each positive interaction with staff and volunteers does just that. At times, this seems to be the smallest part of our job and yet has such a lasting impact.

A big part of Nia’s process was our wrap-around services. She relearned about safety from the Revive Counselor and had meals with the Home Coordinator because she had difficulty eating alone and needed a feeling of community. The Financial Counselor provided Nia with encouragement and additional guidance about saving, and the Housing Locator helped her determine which housing ads were scams and which were legitimate. Each person played a role in helping Nia to rebuild her confidence and affirm for her that she could begin trusting her own judgment. Notice, I didn’t say just one person. This is because the Doorways’ approach is based on collaboration between staff and the client to achieve goals. When we got to the point of housing, Nia obtained financial assistance through our Doorways supportive housing program and, with her persistence in working towards housing stability, will graduate with just two months of assistance provided! While it may take some time for the pieces come together, the transformation can feel instant.

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