Safe House has given decade of service

Saturday, June 15, 2002

Fortunately, for most women, the idea of having to flee an abusive spouse is a foreign one.

But for those who don't feel safe in their own homes -- the victims of violent men who leave them battered in body and spirit -- it is a sad reality.

The trouble is, so many of them have no place to go. Their abusers cut them off from friends and family. They may suffer from low self-esteem and feel unable to make it on their own. And they worry about who will feed and shelter their children.

Ten years ago, the Safe House for Women became the answer for such women in our area. Since it opened its doors on Nov. 1, 1991, it has sheltered 1,797 women and their children.

Its 10-year anniversary observance last week was a little late but no less powerful.

It was a celebration of the women who have successfully freed themselves from abusive situations and a thank you to those who have helped along the way.

It showcased the fact that the Safe House doesn't just shelter women and children for a few short nights and then put them back into the situation. The number of programs offered to them over the years has expanded to an impressive number.

There are licensed and professional counseling services and court advocacy and education programs, to name just a few.

One of the newest is the PAWS program. The Humane Society of Southeast Missouri finds foster homes for family pets until the women get back on their feet.

The celebration put a spotlight on three particularly helpful people.

Police chief Steve Strong saw the need for this kind of service even as a patrol officer and helped make it happen.

Pat Strom was the first board president for the Safe House.

And Richard Meyer, a retired hospital administrator, was an early advocate for the program.

One might be surprised to know who has been helped by the Safe House, or who might need the services in the future. Domestic violence knows no financial or social boundaries.

But those services might not be there without additional help from the community.

The Safe House operates on state and federal grants. With Missouri's recent budget crisis, $14,000 was cut from state funding to the Safe House. The money must be made up from the community if programs are to continue at the current level.

To that end, the organization is asking for donations and offers tax credits for some contributions.

For more information, call the Safe House for Women at 335-7745.

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