Crisis Line & Safe House staff strive to make the shelter as warm, inviting, and close to home as possible. Crisis Line & Safe House moved into the shelter about ten years ago, and has gone to great lengths to make it feel like home to residents, including removing fluorescent lighting, adding a large addition for a dining and multipurpose room, a fenced-in playground, renovating the kitchen, and ensuring the home is fully handicap accessible.
From the moment they enter the doors, staff want clients to experience a sense of warmth and peace. They are met outside to welcome them into the house, given tours early on, and asked on the phone if they have any questions prior to arriving. “We pride ourselves on being very welcoming and very similar to your own home. We want it to be colorful and cheerful and as far away from a facility as possible. You have to be a certain level of brave to call a phone number and do a qualification and go to a place you’ve never seen before,” says Suzanne Walker, the Shelter Director. There are also welcome bags created by volunteer groups for new clients. They include necessary hygiene items and treats, such as jewelry, nail care kits, or hair accessories. “We tell clients, ‘a volunteer packed this and thought of you, and they and we are glad you’re here,’” says Walker.
“One thing we try to emphasize upon arrival is taking the next 24 hours to rest, and not overwhelm the clients on the frontend,” says Morgan Bouchillon, the Assistant Shelter Director. The paperwork is updated to streamline the intake process as much as possible. “If somebody is coming into the shelter, they are tired, emotionally exhausted, and they don’t want to sign one more form,” says Bouchillon. Additional paperwork, case management, and plans for their future are delayed so the clients have a chance to rest. It is important to shelter staff that clients feel safe, well rested, and are thinking clearly before taking the next steps.
Shelter staff also take any opportunity they can to celebrate with the clients. “We enjoy celebrating anything and everything: end of the school year, end of the week, birthday parties, traditional parties, gender reveal parties,” says Walker. There is often cake or cupcakes to celebrate. At holiday times, clients are asked what holiday traditions are at their home that can be incorporated at the shelter. There was even a dance party for the adult residents recently, just because they like to dance.
The children and the relationship between parent and child are taken into consideration, too. Brand-new toys are kept at the shelter that the parents can pick from and give as a gift to their child from them for birthdays or other special occasions. Shelter staff also ensure adult residents are given new gifts when they are being celebrated. The residents are also informed about free activities and events going on in the community to get them out and about and help them know how to find those things and do them after they leave, such as the Cherry Blossom Festival, Markets, and local parks. Residents recently attended a Mercer basketball game. “Some residents enjoy cooking, and some are from different areas of the world and ask for specific groceries to cook these meals. We get them the groceries to do that because we want it to be as similar to their home as possible.”
For more information about the shelter program, call our hotline at (478) 745-9292.