The Safe Home is a secure, caring and supportive place for women and their family members to heal from the emotional and physical pain of domestic abuse and regain control in their lives.
Jamie Winters, who has been the Safe Home Coordinator since 1996, has recently moved on to the next chapter of her life. Leah Callan, who has been working as the Safe Home Advocate, recently accepted the position of Safe Home Coordinator. Together, they took a moment to answer a few questions about this very special place in our northern Michigan community.
What is the biggest change that has taken place for those utilizing Safe Home services?
The Safe Home and 24/7 helpline have always been dedicated to being as inclusive as possible to best meet the varying needs of survivors of domestic abuse. We continue to advance that inclusion through many aspects including: the addition of an accessible bedroom/washroom when remodeling the Safe Home offices in 2004, emotional support animals being welcome to stay at Safe Home, extending stays to dependent family members of survivors (not just minor children), on-site tools such as video relay service for deaf survivors, networking with homeless liaisons in the schools to provide seamless education for children staying in Safe Home, growing a relationship with the Survivor Outreach Services of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians to be more culturally competent in serving indigenous survivors, arranging safe transportation to the shelter from our remote rural areas including Beaver Island, having resources available including online translation tools for survivors who are non-English speaking, expanding technology to meet families’ needs including laptops for client use and smart TVs in the privacy of client bedrooms, increased trainings for Safe Home/helpline staff around issues of intersectionality, social justice and anti-racism, and sharing multi-cultural outlooks with Safe Home residents through books/reading material and DVDs. WRCNM has worked hard to embrace cultural humility and continues to change and grow to best serve survivors.
What has been the one constant over the years with respect to the Safe Home?
The approach of Safe Home staff to work alongside survivors as part of their support team. Services are survivor-centered, non-judgmental, trauma-informed, respectful, honest, connecting as equals, supportive, encouraging, caring, self-determination based, compassionate and kind. The focus on kindness cannot be overstated. Additionally, the physical presence of the shelter has always centered on providing a beautiful, well-built, and consistently maintained space for families to feel comfortable and welcome. The Safe Home provides a sense of peace and soundness for the many families who call this place “home” temporarily.
What do survivors most often say about their experience staying at the Safe Home?
An appreciation for a safe place for themselves and their children/family members, grateful for such a kind group of staff, a calming place to reflect on their strengths and make plans for their future.
How does the Safe Home fit into the WRCNM’s overall mission and values?
The direct service component of the Safe Home closely parallels the agency’s commitment to “the well-being of women”. Daily needs of families are met through provision of everything from food and toiletries to diapers and paper products. Self-care is encouraged and valued as a wellness tool for both residents and staff. Being “committed to equality and justice” also shines through in the work done by staff in advocating for survivors through connections with other community systems and the knowledge that being part of WRCNM means being an active part of a social justice movement. The big picture work done by all the staff is working towards ending oppression, sexism and violence against women in pursuit of a world centered on equality.
What else should people know about Safe Home services?
The Northern Michigan community is a key partner in contributing to the Safe Home’s ability to provide high quality, vital services to survivors of domestic abuse and their family members. WRCNM is fortunate to be part of such a supportive, giving network of individuals, businesses, service groups, faith-based organizations, schools, etc. This strong community support has been instrumental in the agency’s growth and success in serving those in need.
“I’m proud to have been part of all aspects of this work for the past 25 years and honored to have been part of such a strong and committed group of staff. In leaving things in the skilled hands of Leah Callan, the new Safe Home Coordinator, I know the positive work will continue on.”
To learn more about Safe Home services, click here, or call the 24-Hour Help and Information Line at (231) 347-0082 or (800) 275-1995.