Corks For A Cause: Shelter House

Special to The Log
Shelter House has been a Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation partner since 2010. Through this partnership, Shelter House has earned donations totaling more than $380,000.

Editor’s Note: Each month the Destin Log will share a story from one of the charity partners benefiting from the support of Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation.

Seventy percent of women worldwide will experience physical and/or sexual abuse by an intimate partner during their lifetime. Although abuse affects all genders, 85 percent of domestic abuse victims are women, whether through physical abuse, financial abuse, emotional abuse, or a combination of all three.

To put it in a different perspective, every nine seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten in the U.S. and everyday more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends. Doesn’t that hit close to home? It’s happening all around us and It’s too often not talked about.

As the cycle continues, children are often affected as they grow up in violent homes or are abused themselves. Studies suggest that up to 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually. Fortunately, the Emerald Coast has a non-profit center serving victims and survivors in Okaloosa and Walton counties. Shelter House offers a supportive, non-judgmental environment for victims of domestic and sexual violence.

With a 24-hour hotline, confidential shelter, court advocacy, peer counseling, support groups, primary prevention, transitional housing, economic empowerment workshops, child therapy services and supportive services for family members of sexual violence victims, they work to make every survivor feel safe, empowered and confident. 

Shelter House has been a Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation partner since 2010. Through this partnership, Shelter House has earned donations totaling more than $380,000. With the addition of a Child Therapist and a new Prevention/Youth Program Coordinator as of last July, they have made it their mission to create a safe place for children as well.

During the growth of these programs, the Children’s Recreation Room at their emergency shelter flooded, ruining toys, games, and books. The water damaged the walls and floor and they had to be replaced. Already planning an expansion to be able to increase capacity from 24 to 32 beds in the emergency shelter, the flood caused for the Kid’s room to also undergo it’s own “unplanned” renovation.

“Despite the obstacles, the Youth Program continued to provide consistent and much needed care to children who had parents utilizing shelter, outreach and transitional housing services…” says Executive Director Michelle Sperzel.

The “Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation Children’s Recreation Room” is now up and running, and children and their mothers can access the toys, books, and games 24 hours a day in the emergency shelter. In addition to the Children’s Recreation Room, DCWAF funds provided a new family suite. Shelter House will be the first shelter known to implement a separate living quarter for a family.

Group living can be stressful for some families and children. Children with special needs can benefit from having their own living space and less chaos. This family suite is meant for these cases to provide a more comfortable safe haven and transition for the family as a whole. The family suite has it’s own closet, kitchenette, pull out couch, and bunk bed set.

Many times, abuse starts with a family pet being the victim, or leaving a pet behind is painful, and many women stay in abusive relationships because they have nowhere to go with their pets. With the opening of the Kind Heart Kennel, Shelter House became the only domestic violence shelter in Northwest Florida to allow pets.

     Also renovating a building that will serve as their new program office, they hope to have space for trainings, and a more open environment for victims to open up and share. One room will be designated as a private medical exam room for rape kits to be collected by nurses, allowing sexual assault victims to have this exam performed in a calm, supportive environment. They plan to have a separate lobby and play room for children. On April 30, Shelter House celebrated the opening of their new program office and  30th Birthday.

To learn more about Shelter House, see http://www.shelterhousenwfl.org/.