June 30, 2022
By John Bailey
Nine years ago, Tonya Adams walked through the doors at the Family Guidance Center domestic violence shelter as a survivor of human trafficking.
Now, she walks through the same doors as the shelter manager, someone ready to help, who knows what it means to need help, who knows what it takes to provide help.
“Walking through doors, it's a moment of joy every day for me now,” Adams said.
Every year, the Catawba County United Way supports local partners to help build safety nets for those in need, and a great example of this partnership is the one with Family Guidance Center (FGC).
The FGC domestic violence shelter is available to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or human trafficking who need to flee an unsafe living situation. Last year, the shelter helped 25 individuals/families find permanent, safe housing.
But before those moments of success can be reached, there is that first day in the shelter.
“You have to remember, for them, this is the worse day of their lives,” Adams said.
Along with dealing with the mental and emotional trauma they’ve been facing, there is the additional anxiety of moving into a shelter, an unknown environment.
“So, we work on calming their anxiety first and treating the person first,” Adams said. “Sometimes they haven't eaten in hours, or they haven't bathed, or it might be a rape victim.”
In a single day in 2020, 75 percent of North Carolina’s domestic violence programs served 1,152 survivors and their children, according to a report from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Also, 569 survivors and their children found refuge in emergency shelter or transitional housing provided by local domestic violence programs. Another 57 requests for services went unmet due to lack of resources.
A recent intake at the FGC shelter was for a mother and her children from another county.
Adams met the family and brought them to the shelter.
“They had nothing,” she said.
The staff immediately went to work, introducing the family to the shelter, feeding them, getting them clothing, providing personal care items and giving stuff animals to the children.
Once a family is settled into the shelter, case management starts, addressing income barriers, locating more permanent housing, finding out what public assistance they need: Medicaid, food stamps, child support.
Families stay up to 45 days at the shelter.
“If you get started right away, by the time they leave, that assistance is ready and waiting,” Adams said.
The toughest days for FGC staff are those when someone leaves the shelter early, before they’re ready.
It could be for various reasons, FGC Executive Director Robert Dalton said. For some it’s because of behavior issues while others simply aren’t able to live in a congregate environment.
For those who do work their way through the process at the shelter, Dalton said the staff makes sure they have somewhere to go.
“We safety plan with them. We make sure they have a referral somewhere else,” he said. “We make sure the next step after us, is as safe as possible.”
A standout moment this year for Dalton was when the Family Guidance Center staff celebrated the successful transition of a young woman who survived sexual assault and domestic violence as a minor.
She found her way to the domestic violence shelter where the FGC staff went to work to provide as many wrap-around services as possible. The FGC even found a scholarship for the young woman.
“We reached out and the community really stepped as well, providing some additional money” Dalton said.
This helped cover all the basic costs for her to start taking classes, purchasing books and a laptop.
Moving her into college was a moment FGC staff still talk about today.
“It’s those memories of those really good days when somebody has accomplished a lot that carries you through,” Dalton said. “Everything we do today is laying the groundwork for another one of those days.”
And it's the hope of helping create more of those days that motivates the Catawba County United Way to support programs like the Family Guidance Center.
Learn more about the Family Guidance Center at - https://www.fgcservices.com/.
To learn more about the Catawba County United Way’s other community partners visit – THIS LINK.