PREBLE COUNTY — This year marks the 15th anniversary of YWCA Dayton’s operation of the Preble County Domestic Violence Shelter. In those years, services have been expanded to address the needs of men, women, and children suffering from domestic violence in Preble County.
According to Preble County Manager Courtney Griffith, YWCA Dayton took over operation of the domestic violence shelter in Preble County in 2004. It remains the only domestic violence shelter in the county, operating 24/7/365 and accommodating approximately 15 women and children at a time.
“YWCA Dayton’s Preble County DV shelter is a protective shelter; a confidential respite space for families seeking refuge from intimate-partner abuse. YWCA Dayton employs two clinically trained case managers to assist shelter clients. From safety planning and crisis support to accompanying women as they open their first checking account, the goal is always the same: to empower every woman to be the driving force behind her own success,” Griffith said.
“Through shelter services, staff seek to empower clients to develop strategies that ensure safety from future violence and promote long-term stability and self-sufficiency. This is achieved through a wide variety of programming, including: emergency shelter, a 24/7 crisis hotline, crisis intervention, safety planning, case management, legal advocacy, outreach, sexual assault services, support and educational groups, goal planning, individual advocacy, food, clothing, and personal care items, transportation support, and post-shelter case management and referrals.
“In shelter, we also provide sexual assault support groups, we collaborate with Samaritan Behavioral Health to provide mental health services, and we collaborate with Recovery and Wellness to provide substance abuse recovery services.”
Over the years, programming has been expanded and strengthened to better serve the community. Before 2016, the core Preble County programs were the domestic violence shelter and 24/7 crisis hotline. In 2016, YWCA Dayton opened their business office in downtown Eaton, giving them a visual presence in the community.
That same year, YWCA Dayton began prevention programming through their Girls LEAD! (formerly Girls Inc.) program. This program helps girls between the ages of 11-18 socialize with other young women, explore a variety of topics, and grow their self-confidence.
“We facilitate Girls LEAD! Summer Camps in Preble County where girls get to have fun and make new friends while discovering new talents, life skills, and thriving in a developmentally-appropriate, all-girl environment with strong female staff and mentors,” Griffith said.”We incorporate programming that addresses girls’ overall growth and development, including social/emotional, academic, and leadership development.”
Another program was added in 2016 called Purple Paws: Preble Pets Against Domestic Violence. This was YWCA Dayton’s first Preble County fundraising event for the domestic violence shelter. This event raises awareness for all lives affected by domestic abuse – including the lives of four legged companions.
“We know that abuse affects the whole family: more than half of domestic violence victims are reluctant to leave their abusers because they’d also be abandoning their pets. Thanks to community partners, YWCA Dayton connects women entering our domestic violence shelter with concurrent animal shelters so the whole family can heal,” Griffith said.
In 2017, YWCA Dayton started their sexual assault program and are now accredited as the only Rape Crisis Center in Preble County.
“Through this program, we provide anonymous, 24/7 hotline response to anyone impacted by sexual violence, including friends and loved ones of survivors. We provide a holistic approach within our services through short-term crisis intervention, case management, counseling, emotional support, information, and referrals to empower the individual to move forward and work with community-based partners for ongoing support,” Griffith said.
“We provide in-shelter and community-based support groups for survivors to have a place to speak safely regarding their experiences. We provide sexual assault education through community-based presentations, workshops, and psycho-social educational programs for partners looking for curriculum-building courses taught over time.
“We also provide professional consultation and guidance to anyone seeking help and support on how to make their workplaces, schools, or other organizations more aware of the effects of violence on all aspects of our lives. We facilitate the Preble County Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) made up of local partners and stakeholders.”
The Preble County Domestic Violence Shelter consists of five bedrooms, two living rooms, two kitchens, two laundry rooms, a play room, four restrooms, two case management offices, and two garages. The five rooms have 14 beds total, but that doesn’t include the number of infant beds staff can fit in each room if needed.
Mothers and their children stay in the same room together as a family unit. When a survivor is in need of services for domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, dating violence, and/or human/sex trafficking, they call the 24/7 hotline (local Preble number: 937-456-6891).
“Our crisis support specialists provide supportive listening, safety planning, resources, referrals, and advocacy. If the caller is in need of emergency shelter, we coordinate their entry. If our shelter is full and someone needs to enter, we work with local partners and out-of-county domestic violence shelters to get them sheltered. We provide clients and their children with everything they need while in shelter: personal hygiene items, food, clothing, houseware items, linens, bedding, toys, and school supplies,” Griffith said.
“We are able to provide these items because of the generosity of our amazing community. We receive an abundance of donations (new and gently used) from community members, churches, organizations, and groups all year long. We also coordinate with local churches and groups to ‘adopt a family’ during the holidays.”
Griffith added, the length of stay in shelter looks different for each client and it all depends on their goals and amount of barriers.
“A client may enter shelter employed, with their own transportation, and a good rental background. They may be looking for immediate safety and to stay long enough to get a protection order and become self-sufficient and stable enough to transition into their own safe housing within 30-60 days. Another client may enter shelter with three children, no income, no employment history (important note: Preble County has no evening or weekend daycare options), bad credit, a history of evictions (all of which can be linked to financial abuse), and no transportation (this is a huge barrier since there is no public transportation in Preble County),” she said.
“Due to the amount of barriers this client has, it may take them longer to reach goals, become self-sufficient, and transition out of shelter. Housing is a major barrier that adds time to their shelter stay as Preble County has a shortage of affordable housing. This also doesn’t take into account the amount of trauma each client (and child) has from their history of abuse. There is no way to put a time limit on how long it takes someone to heal from the mental, physical, and sexual abuse someone experiences.
“Each client works with their case manager to set goals and make a transition plan where safety is a priority. Some goals are small and can be obtained quickly while others are larger and take time. Goals can include: obtain identification documents, file for a protection order, enroll children in daycare and/or school, find employment, open a bank account, apply for food assistance, start mental health counseling, apply for housing assistance, etc. Once the client has moved through their plan and transitions out of shelter, our case managers provide optional aftercare services to assist clients with any needs they may have once they’ve re-entered the community.”
The Preble County Domestic Violence Shelter has been in existence for more than 15 years, but not much is known regarding the history prior to YWCA Dayton’s ownership in 2004. For staff members, it is rewarding to look back on the accomplishments of the past 15 years, but they realize there is even more work ahead in “eliminating racism [and] empowering women.”
“When YWCA Dayton opened its first domestic violence shelter in 1977, it was one of the first 25 such shelters and just the second to be opened by a YWCA. Now, YWCA USA is the single largest network of domestic violence shelters and services across the nation. We are proud of this legacy of being a voice, and a safe haven, for survivors. Our beds have been full in both shelters since the day we opened the doors,” Marketing and Communications Director Audrey Starr said.
“Particularly in Preble County, we know that women in rural communities are 10 percent more likely to experience intimate-partner violence, but less likely to report it. It is critical that we have a refuge for these women. There are so many communities that do not. According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, in 2018, victims made 9,183 requests for services – including emergency shelter, housing, transportation, childcare, legal representation, and more – that could not be provided because programs lacked the resources to meet victims’ needs. We will continue to champion survivors’ voices and ensure they have the support and resources they need to secure safe, stable, successful futures.”
Preble County Case Manager Tara Tom added, “YWCA has worked tirelessly for 15 years to bring awareness, education, advocacy and services to the community. For 15 years there has been a need for our services and with each passing year, the need continues. I have clients tell me, ‘I would have left sooner if I would have known there was so much help and assistance available to me,’ or I get, ‘I would have left sooner If I knew there was a safe place for me to go.’ So, to me personally, as much work as the YWCA has done, there is still a lot more to do and I look forward to being a part of that.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH