Holidays signal rising demand for domestic
Capital News Service
LANSING – Holidays are usually spent catching up with family and loved ones, but for some organizations dealing with domestic violence, holidays mean more work.
Domestic and homelessness shelters increase staff for an anticipated rise in the number of phone calls and people in need of a haven.
“The expectation of the weather and an increase in drinking causes the need for shelter,” said Carole Cadarette, the volunteer program coordinator at Shelter Inc. “Many people just want someone to listen, especially those in desolate areas.”
The Alpena-based safe house opened in 1978 and houses up to 17 people. It provides women and children from Alpena, Alcona, Iosco, Montmorency and Presque Isle counties a place to stay until they are able to live independently.
It also uses local donations and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds to feed occupants.
Cadarette said Shelter Inc. is involved in local fundraisers, including the Adopt A Family program that provides food for more than 15 families in the five-county area. It has become so successful that three more local organizations want to adopt a family.
Another shelter, which serves Tuscola, Huron and Sanilac counties, is the Thumb Area Assault Crisis Center in Caro. It offers a 24-hour hotline and has 27 beds and six cribs for women and children who are abused.
“Around the holidays, money-related problems and families that don’t usually see each other are our biggest causes of domestic violence,” said Mary McIntosh, the life skills advocate at the Caro Crisis Center.
McIntosh helps women live on their own by teaching them basic skills, such as balancing a checkbook. She also runs a rent assistance program that provides partial or complete payment of rent for up to two years.
The Doors of Hope grant program, which is provided by the Altria Group of New York, created McIntosh’s position.
“I give a positive message and let them know it’s OK to make a mistake, everyone makes them,” said McIntosh. “It’s hard because they are beaten down so much.”
At the state level, the Department of Human Services domestic violence prevention and treatment board helps with legislation, training of police officers and distribution of federal funding.
“The local level is the most important because they are dealing with life-and-death situations,” said Debi Cain, executive director of the state board.
According to the 2005 State Police crime report, more than half of domestic violence cases in the Alpena and Thumb areas involved an ex-partner, partner or spouse.
“The problem is families are trying to live up to the Christmas cards and the happy movies,” said Cain. “The sadness is it isn’t like that when there’s violence.”
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