I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the difference between what many people might think happens in a DV/Homelessness service and what actually happens.
Where does our work with a woman and her family begin? And what does it involve?
When a woman makes the decision to pack up the children and some basic essentials (if she is in a position to even do that) and leave her home, she is making a huge decision. She’s taking an enormous risk in the hope that she and the children have an opportunity to live a safe life.
Bonnie’s support always starts with ‘housing first’, but that is only the beginning. It’s our ‘mission’ that women get more than a bed for the night or a brief reprieve from DV and homelessness. While we are supporting their immediate needs, our big picture work involves ensuring they have the resources to achieve and sustain their longer term goals. Work, safety, financial independence, freedom and a vibrant life in their community.
We might offer case management, counselling, therapeutic groups such as art therapy; practical information, legal support, employment and connections with other women who can hear, respect and understand their story. The right services and supports for children are of course essential too.
It’s all about equipping women with the emotional and practical tools to make the most of this one life we have.
One of our most popular and most used images at Bonnie’s is the one from our Facebook cover-page and our most recent Annual Report. It is an image of a strong, independent woman walking out the door. She looks confident, light on her feet and self- assured. She’s stepping into the world, on her own terms. It’s an image that conjures up a very desirable state of being for all of us. It’s the image that we keep top of mind as our goal for all the women who we meet after they have walked out of their own door, to find safety through ours.
Only last week we received a call from a woman we know who walked through a new door. She wanted to let us know of her recent success – she had graduated from nursing. I bumped into another ex-resident at a recent White Ribbon Day event and she was excited to see me and let me know that she was in a new relationship and that her new partner was a good man. And then, when a mother and daughter both got jobs in the same week, we were delighted to share in their good news.
We should never under-estimate the time it takes to heal and all that needs to happen for a woman and her children to find those new doors opening – and keep those closed doors, closed!
Written by Tracy, Executive Officer