The Sun News

Salvation Army Safe House offers support, temporary housing to domestic violence victims

Jacqueline Herrera
Jacqueline Herrera

Q&A with Jacqueline Herrera

Residence: Warner Robins

Occupation: Executive Director, The Salvation Army Safe House

Q: What are you talking about when you say domestic violence?

A: Essentially, a pattern of behaviors where an intimate partner exhibits power or control over the other. It could be spousal, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a same-sex couple or anyone in such a relationship. It can include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, economic abuse and other abuses and involve threats, stalking, cyberstalking and similar means.

Q: Does it involve children?

A: Children are certainly involved, but the primary dynamic and our focus with domestic violence has to do with adults. When the abuse and mistreatment is directed toward children, it brings the juvenile system into play. But children can be secondary victims of domestic violence and we treat them the same as adult survivors as far as support, counseling and help.

Q: What role does The Salvation Army’s Safe House play regarding domestic violence?

A: Our role is providing support and a way out for domestic violence victims. Our primary goal is crisis intervention if someone needs a safe place to go temporarily. We provide a 30-day stay. Some may not need a place to go, but financial assistance and help for things like getting locks changed, changing residence and similar practical help. We can help get a protective order through the courts. If someone made the decision to get help but aren’t ready to leave, we can provide counseling services, support groups and many of the services we offer residents.

Q: Other help?

A: Such a wide array. Some may need help having kids register in a different county’s schools. They may need help getting children flagged not to be picked up by a particular individual. All the circumstances you might imagine regarding domestic violence we try to help. Medical, physical, emotional, practical. But the main thing is to get them somewhere safe, away from their abuser, and reestablished apart from that abuser.

Q: The safe house is for women?

A: It’s for men, women and children. Males have to leave with children, too. And, of course, for individual males and females with no children.

Q: What qualifies a person to be there? Or what’s the process?

A: We do an intake sheet asking if abuse has ever been reported to police. Often it hasn’t because of fear. We ask if there’ve been visits to a hospital or witnesses—friends, neighbors, employers, others—who’ve seen or heard abuse or its results. But we realize abusers and victims are expert at hiding things. If you tell me you’ve been abused and answer no to these questions, we will still hear you. We still help. This is so important: there is hardly ever a perfect file, a perfect case where everything is clear. But we’re here to help people, and the worst thing we can do is tell them they have to prove something. That’s not what we’re about. There’s no pressure to prove things.

Q: How does someone get into the program?

A: It almost always starts with a phone call from someone seeking help or a referral. We’re at a private, secure, undisclosed location, and when they come they’re escorted by police.

Q: They have to have been in a police-involved incident?

A: No, but they have to be escorted by police. If they don’t have transportation, law enforcement may provide it. They may go to a police department and be transported from there. We’re very appreciative of help from law enforcement whether through response to a call or just helping individuals like this.

Q: You say it starts with a phone call, what’s the number?

A: Our 24/7 crisis line is 478-923-6294.

Q: How long has The Salvation Army Safe House been in operation in Warner Robins?

A: It’s been 37 years.

Q: How is it funded?

A: Primarily it’s federally funded through grants like VOCA—Victims of Crime Act Assistance Grant Program. We receive state funding through the governor’s office, we’re a United Way agency, get funding through the Middle Georgia Food Bank, and get private donations from businesses, organizations, churches, individuals—even from groups like the International City Farmer’s Market. We have survivors that want to give back. A lot of donations from church groups, civic organizations, individuals, survivors and others are things like shampoo and conditioner, toilet paper, stuff needed for daily life that you don’t think about but we need a lot of.

Q: Has there been good community support?

A: Very good. You know, nobody says “no” is the big thing. If I reach out to a church ministry and say we’re running low on diapers, we get them. Another group may do a coat drive. From our county commissioner to city governments to the local bar association to chambers of commerce to civic groups to people at Robins Air Force Base, the response has been so good. People volunteer time for all sorts to things, too.

Q: Like?

A: Office and administrative work, computers, facility upkeep, maintenance and upgrades. Some built a big dining room table.

Q: How many people can be at the safe house?

A: We have five bedrooms and a capacity of 18. We can take more if needed through motels working with us. If someone in the middle of the night needs a safe place, we can put them in a hotel. Sadly we stay pretty full.

Q: What can someone do to support efforts to combat domestic violence?

A: If you see something, say something to authorities, police, clergy, counselors, to anyone. Listen to the person and offer help. Get information for them. That’s why it’s good to know about us, others and domestic violence issues. One day you may need help or someone you know might. If you reach out, you might make the difference. Of course, you can call and report abuse or suspected abuse anonymously. Honestly, just have compassion. It’s easy for us to judge and ask why do you stay? Why do you expose your kids to this? But it’s not always that simple, not that easy to get away or change.

Q: You gave the crisis line at 478-923-6294, how can people get general information? Donate? Volunteer?

A: Call our office number, 478-923-2348. We can also speak for groups or schedule volunteers to come clean out clothing closets, cook meals like the fire department does at Thanksgiving, do fundraisers—I could go on.

Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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