How Summer in a Shelter Can Restore Hope and Joy

This article is sponsored by The Family Place.

“What did you do this summer?”

You're probably thinking about vacations, growth spurts, and a list of highlights. Some North Texas kids, however, have a different answer:

“I lived in a shelter.”

What Does Summer Mean to You?

At The Family Place, summer means full, busy days, meeting the needs of victims of domestic abuse while trying to instill hope for a brighter future. It can be especially heart-wrenching to see the impact on children of living in, and leaving, an abusive home.

The transition from fear to future-looking starts in one of their three emergency shelters. This lasts 30-45 days but can be extended when the victim's life is at risk if they lose that place to stay. Fears are addressed and healing begins at this point.

Stephanie Mendez, MSW, Children's Program Coordinator, is part of the hard-working team committed to these kids and their parents.

If they’ve come to us, they’ve been through significant trauma. We provide enrichment and positive experiences to fill time of darkness with bright spots.

Providing these bright spots leads to a lot of the summer planning the rest of us know so well. Outings, crafts, and special guests are all considered key to a fulfilling season rich with joyous memories.

So, what does summer mean? In this case, summer means an opportunity to have a positive impact on lives that have been too hard, experienced too much pain, and been too short on joy.

How Do You Add Joy Back to a Life?

Family Place 753Passion for the job doesn't hurt. “I wake up excited to make a difference every day,” says Stephanie. That's good because enthusiasm and dedication are key to helping kids who have likely not received much of either.

Before lifting spirits, the staff has to earn trust and demonstrate commitment. Next, they add in fun outings and events.

This summer, The Family Place has several options to meet varied needs. There's a licensed daycare on-site for kids age 0 – 5. They offer an after school program and a full-blown summer camp experience, too.

Additionally, kids from elementary through college-age have access to the BE Project, an outreach program that teaches about healthy relationships. This program encourages kids to “Be Safe, Be Kind, Be Courageous and Be More”.

Family Place 781So far this summer, the team has had lots of success adding smiles back into the kids' days.

They've had a 4th of July carnival, gone to movies, attended a magic show, done myriad arts and crafts, and they have more on the horizon.

These outings are one part of Stephanie's job — she has anywhere from 3 to 19 kids per event. “I just want to give the kids normal summer memories. They've typically spent a lot of time unsupervised, bored, and lonely.”

Stephanie stresses that their staff is focused on sharing social and character-building skills that build confidence and independence. The key, though, is that staff want kids to know they're not alone and to add structure and support to these children's lives. Above all, they add heart to a time often filled with heartbreak.

Why The Family Place?

The Family Place has served victims of domestic abuse since 1978. The importance of these critical services is made abundantly clear by the bold GET HELP NOW button that is one of the first things you'll notice on their website. Their mission sums it up:

The Family Place empowers victims of family violence by providing safe housing, counseling and skills that create independence while building community engagement and advocating for social change to stop family violence.

And here's just some of what they have to show for 41 years of service:

  • offering three emergency shelters, 177 beds each night, including the only one in Texas where men who are victims can bring their kids
  • counseling services for more than 216,500 clients
  • lifesaving shelter for more than 25,000 children, women, and men
  • answering more than 615,000 calls for help
  • helping more than 19,000 batterers learn how to change abusive behavior
  • reaching approximately 6,500 kids each year with outreach education
  • providing all services in English and Spanish

Can I help?

“Wipes. We always need wipes,” says Stephanie.

Family Place 844Money, time, and advocacy help, too. The Family Place needs your support, whatever you have to offer, however you want to make a difference. Your contribution can have an impact on multiple fronts.

Donations of any amount are welcome. Requested items are listed on the website, too. You can even shop the Amazon Wish List to make it easier.

Involvement helps the organization directly. It also has the added effect of creating advocates. After all, it's hard to get involved with such an important cause and not want to promote awareness and contribute to solutions.

By the Numbers–Domestic Abuse

It will be hard, but please read these statistics:

  • Thirty-eight percent of Texas women have experienced domestic abuse by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • Nationally, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men age 18+ have been victims.
  • In 2018, the City of Dallas reported 15,425 domestic violence-related offenses and 24 murders.
  • Each minute, nearly 20 people are abused by intimate partners.
  • One in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner abuse each year, and 90% are eyewitnesses.

This is tragic. This is unacceptable. And, this means that you, or someone you care about, may well be included in these numbers.

There For You

Family Place 871If you, or someone you know, needs The Family Place, reach out now. There's a 24-hour Crisis Hotline: 214.941.1991, or, remember, that GET HELP NOW button on the website.

Getting to The Family Place is the first step in many on the road back to safety. The programming for kids helps those kids tremendously.

It helps their parents, also. Parents are able to fill out paperwork, go on job interviews, attend meetings and everything else they need to do to get to the next chapter in their lives while the kids are engaged in fun and learning.

It's a noble calling and hard work. All done, so that, at the end of summer, more children have this answer to the “how was your summer” question:

“My summer was a lot of fun. I lived in a shelter. Now, I'm excited about the future.”

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