To seek shelter is to look for protection. To offer shelter is to provide protection, though in the case of the YWCA Battered Women's Shelter it also means to provide escape -- services that help women move into a new life away from a violent situation.
That can happen only when a woman is ready and only on her own terms, according to Theresa Singleton, director of protection from abuse services at the YWCA.
"Our philosophy is we support choice," Singleton says. "We don't make decisions for women. We serve adults capable of making their own choices and decisions. We support their decisions. If a woman says, 'I want to go to New Mexico' and we haven't been served a court order, it's her choice and we're going to support it. We're not in the business of telling women what to do."
The reality of providing that support is a monumental task.
Stacey Hall, the YWCA's shelter director, is responsible for coordinating the support services, maintaining an up-to-date network of ready providers, soliciting volunteers and everything else that goes into day-to-day operations
"When the second shift hits, it's a mad house," Hall says. "If we have two to four advocates on shift, (residents) are coming to ask for medication, people asking for meals to be saved, people are asking for resources and numbers to call. Children are fighting and they're working on showing parents good ways to deal with that -- a million things going on at any given time.
"You think about the kinds of things that can come up in a shelter setting, and we're lucky when we have moments when we can take a breath and get things done."
Singleton and Hall agree that as difficult as it is for the staff and volunteers, life at the shelter is even harder on the residents (see "Shelter: Not for Wimps," issue of Dec. 20, 2007).
Note: CityBeat visited the shelter at an undisclosed location in Greater Cincinnati during the holidays late last year.
If you need a safe place to stay or just want to consider your options, call the YWCA Domestic Violence Hotline at 513-872-9259 or visit www.ywcacincinnati.org. Current needs at the shelter include new linens, toiletries, paper products, diapers, personal hygiene products and, as always, cash.