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When Northern Virginians are in need, there are a host of local organizations there to offer support. Ahead of Mother’s Day, we’re recognizing three NoVA shelters focused on helping local women and mothers.
Artemis House is a program under the umbrella of Fairfax County nonprofit Shelter House, which has a mission to prevent and end homelessness and domestic violence. Artemis House is Fairfax County’s only 24-hour emergency shelter for victims of domestic and sexual violence, stalking and human trafficking. The shelter serves both men and women, but according to Artemis House director Raven E. Dickerson, 98 percent of the shelter’s adult clients are women.
The Artemis House program lasts 45 days, but the average stay is about 40 days. In 2016, 310 individuals (145 adults and 165 children) benefited from Artemis House’s resources.
“We recognize that people entering our shelter are coming from situations where someone controlled them and took their power away, and we want to give that power back to them,” Dickerson says. “All of our services are voluntary, meaning that our clients are not required to participate in case management, counseling or other supportive services. Instead they have the right to choose what is most helpful to them.”
Available services include trauma-informed case management, housing assistance, employment assistance, individual and group counseling, legal advocacy, financial literacy groups, reading groups and tutoring. Artemis House also provides emergency transportation as needed and helps meet basic client needs by providing soap, deodorant, toothbrushes and the like.
Artemis House partners with the Fairfax County Office for Women and Domestic & Sexual Violence Services (which has a 24-hour hotline at 703-360-7273) and the Fairfax County Domestic Violence Action Center. The Artemis House has its own 24-hour hotline at 703-435-4940.
Bethany House in Alexandria exclusively welcomes single women and women with children under 17 years old to its two shelter locations. One site accommodates six families, the other serves up to four families, and the shelter is hoping to expand to be able to accommodate two to three more families. The shelter isn’t county restricted and has taken in women from nearby and from as far as California, Texas and Georgia.
Bethany House’s four-month program offers adult group therapy, children’s individual and group counseling and life skills programs addressing parenting, job interviews, affordable housing and more.
“We help women recognize signs of domestic violence and how to break the cycle so they don’t find themselves in another relationship that’s going to be abusive,” Nina Acheampong, deputy director of Bethany House, says. “While they are here, we also try to get them on to the next step, obtaining transitional, subsidized or permanent housing.”
At the shelter, the women are required to meet with a counselor weekly and make employment efforts within 30 days. If they cannot work, they participate in job training or volunteering.
Arlington County’s Doorways for Women and Families began in 1978 to help families in crisis with a mission to “create pathways out of homelessness, domestic violence and sexual assault leading to safe, stable and empowered lives.” Today, Doorways has two shelters serving both men and women: the Domestic Violence Safehouse and the Freddie Mac Foundation Family Home. The Freddie Mac Foundation Family Home, which houses 21 beds and averages four- to five-month stays, was designed to help those facing homelessness. On average, people spend three to four months at the 19-bed Domestic Violence Safehouse.
“Domestic violence does not discriminate between gender, race, high or low income—all kinds of people can be affected,” Heather O’Malley, Doorways’ director of development and communication, says. “We definitely serve everybody, but unfortunately in our society single mothers tend to be the ones who are often dealing with these situations more frequently. We certainly see more single moms than dads.”
Last year, Doorways received more than 2,000 calls to its 24-hour domestic abuse hotline (703-237-0881) and homelessness line (703-907-0022) and helped 2,848 clients.
Unlike most shelter programs, Doorways programs don’t have a time limit. When someone graduates from a program, it is because they achieved the goals they set for themselves upon entering Doorways. The shelter’s programs address financial literacy, parenting skills and workforce development. It also offers a domestic violence survivor court advocacy program, which anyone, regardless of whether or not they are staying at Doorways, can access.
“A long time ago we learned that shelter and imminent housing isn’t enough to help people move on for good,” O’Malley says. “We want to help people recover from crisis by obtaining permanent housing and giving them the skills they need to build the lives they had the potential for before crisis struck.”