All of us want to be home for the holidays. Whether it’s our home, our parents’ home or Great Aunt Sarah’s where the family has always gathered.
But for a few families and individuals, each year, the Turning Points Network emergency shelter is home for the holidays. “It won’t always be this way,” a mom consoles her teenage daughter, “but this year we have to be safe.”
The families in our Turning Points Network shelter have all the same hopes and wishes in anticipation of the holidays, however they are also struggling with the trauma of having left their own homes because of domestic and/or sexual violence. Not only are they displaced, they are sharing common space with as many as four other women and as many as ten children. It’s not easy at any time, but especially during the holidays when “home” is where we all want to be.
Many who come to our shelter have left behind everything except the clothes they were wearing and what they hastily stuffed into a few tote bags. They are scared, angry, feeling uprooted, uncertain and disoriented. And while each mom and kids have their own bedroom, they now share living, dining and kitchen space with several other families.
Tensions can run high when so much disruption is going on under one roof, but as the holidays approach, moms and kids want to keep their lives as normal a as possible. They decorate, bake cookies, create gifts and cook an extra special meal together. Turning Points Network makes sure that each shelter guest has gifts to open, that stockings are filled and that each guest can celebrate and enjoy the holiday each observes. They also play games and watch holiday specials and football games on TV just as they would in their own homes.
Last year, the women sat down and decided who would cook the turkey and gravy and who would make side dishes and pie. This brought them together even though there had been disagreements earlier in the year. The shelter manager and AmeriCorps volunteer helped the children craft ornaments for the tree and their rooms. Some moms have gotten their own decorations out of storage to share at the shelter.
Rocking chairs help. Moms rock children who cry for the holiday they really wanted, worried their presents may not get to them, and because they are scared. Moms cry because it is so hard to talk with their children about why they need to be in the shelter right now, why their friends can’t come over and why they cannot give their children what they want right now, while assuring them they are safe from injury and from violence.
More than 800 individuals seek assistance from TPN each year and as many as 35 families are able to stay in our 16-bed emergency shelter during the year. Shelter guests can stay until TPN has helped them secure safe and sustainable housing. Since TPN began offering its economic independence classes, 70% of survivors who leave their abusers remain independent.
Turning Points Network offers its services to all who need them, at no cost to participants, whether they require emergency shelter, court advocacy, economic independence classes, peer counseling or clothing appropriate for a job interview or work. Money should never be a barrier to seeking safety or healing which is why TPN relies on donations and grants to operate our emergency shelter and every other service provided by the agency.
For more information about our services and programs, volunteer opportunities, or how you can help, call 1.800.639.3130.
OUR TURN is a public service series by Turning Points Network (TPN) serving all of Sullivan County with offices in Claremont and Newport. We provide wraparound supports for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, stalking and human trafficking and we present violence-prevention education programs in our schools. For more than 40 years, TPN has helped people of all ages move from the darkness of abuse toward the light of respect, healing and hope. For information contact 1.800.639.3130 or find us on Facebook.