Hamlin advocates for those in need

Published 5:51 pm Sunday, April 15, 2018

Krystal Hamlin sets out to make a difference in someone’s life every day.

The Vicksburg native is the outreach coordinator for Haven House family shelter, and works to help the victims of domestic violence start a new life away from the dangerous environment they have been exposed to.

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“One thing I do is go into justice and municipal courts, and I speak with victims in court,” she said. “Depending on whatever their needs are, I provide court services, safety planning and just be a listening ear for them and make the legal system a little bit easier for them to navigate, or just be along with them during the process.”

When Hamlin goes to court and the judge calls the case docket, she will look to see if the victim is in the courtroom.

“If the victim is there, I will go up to her and introduce myself. I let her know I work for the local domestic violence shelter and ask if she would be interested in talking to me about the things they brought it to court,” she said.

“Sometimes, the court will order them to talk to a Haven House representative, and then from that point, I will try and get to the root of what brought us to court.”

Some people, she said, are receptive to talking with her about Haven House’s services, while some are not initially receptive, but later change their minds and seek help.

“Sometimes, with some of them, if I notice they are afraid or a little bit intimidated by the court, I will contact them on an outreach basis and meet with them at another location. Most of the time they’ll start talking then, because they’re not in the courts,” Hamlin said.

When she talks with victims, Hamlin said, she tries to get to the root of the issue that may have caused the problem at home, and talks about Haven House and what it can do to help them.

“I talk with the victim about what they may want to do or some things they see they need, and I can navigate the resources they need,” she said.

In some cases where both people are charged with domestic violence, and both of them seem like victims, she may talk with both of them, depending on the case. Most of the time, however, she talks with a single victim. When Hamlin talks to victims, her first priority is making sure they’re safe.

“Whenever I talk with the victim, I counsel them on safety. If she does not want to come to the shelter, what I do is safety plan with her; change the locks, make the neighbors aware of what is going on, and if children are at home, have a safety plan for the children,” she said.

“If they need a protective order or of they need counseling services, whatever it is that they need, and I try to link them to what they need, but also let them know about Haven House in the event that it happens again, they can always come to the shelter.”

A lot of times, Hamlin said, it all depends on the victim, adding there are ways they can resolve the domestic problem so it does not return to court.

And Warren County is not the only area she works.

“As a coordinator, I go into other areas and provide the services we do in Warren County in Sharkey, Issaquena and Yazoo counties,” Hamlin said. “One of the big things is working in Yazoo County. I’ve been a coordinator for about 11/2 years, and in Yazoo County I’m trying to implement and start what we have here in Warren County.”

The third of eight children, Hamlin has a bachelor’s degree in social work from Alcorn State University and a master’s in social work from the University of New England.

She was working in Fayette as a mental health therapist when she heard about the position at Haven House and was hired as a victim’s advocate.

“It was overwhelming,” Hamlin said of taking the job at Haven House. “It was a new area for me; it was my first time ever being involved with domestic violence, up close and personal,” Hamlin said. “It was never anything I just really thought about. When I started working here, it was a whole new ball game.”

One of the aspects Hamlin said she likes about her work is the impact Haven House can have on victims.

“A lot of times, they want to get out, but they don’t know where to go,” she said. “They want to do this, but they are unsure about it. Just being in court and being supportive and letting them know we are supportive of them lets them know whenever you are ready I am here.

“It’s very beneficial to see them follow the advice and sometimes, it’s an asset to see them actually take the step and say, ‘I don’t want to be in this situation,’ and they make the decision.”

The lows, Hamlin said, is that sometimes it can be painful to hear some of the people’s stories.

“I try not to take it home, but sometimes I do take it home, because I think about it while I’m sitting there talking with them some of the things they share with me replays in my head at home sometimes,” Hamlin said. “Hearing some of those stories can be a very low point.”

When it comes to helping people, she said, “It all depends on the person. As a social worker, I can’t fix all their problems, but at least if I can get one fixed, we can work on all the rest. It depends on the problems the victims have.”

Hamlin said she doesn’t see herself leaving her position.

“I see myself remaining as a coordinator and advocate,” she said. “I wouldn’t see me changing for anything else in the world. I love what I’m doing.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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