Haven House Family Shelter observes domestic violence awareness month

Published 3:17 pm Thursday, October 14, 2021

Thank heaven for Haven House — a safe place established in Warren County in 1985 for families seeking shelter from family violence.  

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a time to help support the growing awareness of abuse and to honor survivors, some of whom have sought out refuge at the Haven House Family Shelter. 

A purple ribbon is worn in observance of the cause.  

Nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the U.S., the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website stated. Those numbers represent abuse to both males and females from all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. 

Krystal Hamlin, who is the Haven House outreach coordinator, said in addition to physical abuse, domestic violence can include verbal, psychological, financial and religious abuse as well as dating abuse. 

“Dating abuse is a pattern of behaviors used by the partner to maintain power and control over another person,” Hamlin said. 

For those seeking a safe place from their abuser, Haven House Family Shelter Program Manager Anna Tillotson said not only does the shelter provide refuge from their abuser, it offers “advocacy and support during one’s stay.” 

“Residents are also provided meals, clothing, transportation, case management services, counseling and more,” Tillotson said. All of Haven House’s services are free. “Shelter residents also have access to our outreach services to aid in court advocacy, obtaining legal services, filing for protection orders and divorce if so needed.”

Municipal Court has a dedicated docket the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month for domestic violence cases. Haven House staff are in attendance at the proceedings, Hamlin said, to provide crisis counseling for victims in the court setting.

Haven House, although located in Warren County, assists residents from all over the state of Mississippi. The organization’s primary areas of service are in Warren, Sharkey, Issaquena, Yazoo, Hinds, Madison, Rankin and Simpson counties. 

“We also assist residents out of state when there is a safety concern where they are located,” Tillotson said. 

Approximately 75 to 90 residents are served annually at Haven House. The average stay is between three and four months.

“Residents can remain at the shelter for as long as necessary for them to reach their goals,” Tillotson said.

Tillotson said some residents seek shelter at Haven House multiple times. It can take time for a male or female to make the decision to leave his or her abuser permanently. 

In addition to Tillotson, the staff at Haven House includes an executive director; financial manager; a shelter services coordinator who ensures all supplies the shelter needs are available; a case manager who aids residents in goal setting, budgeting and obtaining any services they need; a counselor; a cook to provide meals; a childcare worker whose services are free to residents who work or have to attend to necessary business; residential aides who provide necessary support to the shelter on nights, holidays and weekends; and Hamlin, whose job includes providing court advocacy and support, and to educate the community about domestic violence.   

“Haven House is part of the Beverly Prentiss Victims Empowerment Program Team, which allows us to work closely with local law enforcement. Many times, when there is a domestic disturbance, the officers will inform the victim about Haven House and ask if they would like for them to call,” Hamlin said.

Victims of domestic violence can reach out directly to Haven House on its 24-hour crisis line at 601-638-0555.

All staff is trained in trauma informed care, Hamlin said. Advocates with the shelter can assist victims in creating a safety plan that can be put into action if they decide to leave the situation or if violence occurs again.

If contacting Haven House, Hamlin said, it is important for a victim to be in a free and safe environment where they can provide information about their situation.

Hamlin said advocates can also help victims with filing charges or seeking a protection order.

When a victim arrives at Haven House, Tillotson said, They are greeted by staff and are shown to their rooms.”

After they are settled in, she said, they begin meetings with the case manager to begin goal setting. Case managers also aid residents in obtaining social services, medical care if needed, and finding employment.

Residents are allowed to bring their children to the shelter and if school age can maintain their enrollment if enrolled in a Warren County school, Tillotson said. If they are not enrolled in a local school, she said, a staff person at Haven House can assist in helping them get enrolled.

For children who are not school age, Tillotson said, free daycare is provided at the shelter.

Domestic Violence Shelter Funding cuts 

As of Oct. 1, all domestic violence shelters lost funding from Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) federal grants, which send money to direct assistance programs for victims and survivors of all types of crimes in Mississippi.

This was reported on a WLBT broadcast Oct. 12.

Courtney Ann Jackson, who is a reporter with the news station, spoke with several shelter directors, one of which was Haven House Executive Director Georgia Grodowitz.

In response to the funding cuts, Grodowitz said, “We’re always working to break the cycle, we’re working to break the cycle of abuse and it’s so important that we keep going, that we keep thinking of new ways to do that. New ways to educate prevention. Those kind of things are going to be the things that get left behind.” 

Funding for Mississippi Domestic Violence Shelters was cut by 40 to 60 percent, Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence Executive Director Wendy Mahoney told WLBT.  

“When we get cut by 40 to 60 percent, that can mean 40 to 60 percent of reduction in beds, that individuals won’t have access to,” Mahoney said. 

Domestic violence cases have risen in the U.S. by 8.1 percent during the pandemic, therefore the funding cuts will affect those needing to seek a safe haven from abuse. Mahoney said she is hopeful state lawmakers will find a way to direct emergency funds to the Mississippi shelters.  

A request from the Speaker and Lieutenant Governor to the Governor included emergency funding for the issue, Jackson reported, but no announcement has been made regarding a special session that would address the situation.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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