Local organization works to find safe places for domestic violence victims

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As domestic violence plagues Shelby County, the Family Safety Center is working on more safe places for victims to go.

Stephanie Anderson was abused for years. All at the hands of her boyfriend.

“We were together six years. He went to jail and was in jail for like, a year-and-a-half. I waited thinking he was going to change,” Anderson said.

But he didn’t. And the bruises kept forming until her birthday, June 4. She was going out to celebrate with her son and two daughters. Her boyfriend was yelling at her in front of them before they left.

“He was sending me texts, saying, ‘You gon’ die tonight.’ Just bad stuff.”

Her son told her if they went back to her house that night, he was going to sleep with his shoes and shorts on because he was afraid. “At that point, I was like, ‘I can’t go back.’ So we didn’t go back.”

Instead, they went to police who set them up with the Family Safety Center. That’s where Anderson met Emergency Housing Manager Priscilla Blackman.

Blackman set them up with a temporary apartment.

“Having Ms. Priscilla. I can call and talk to her and make me feel better. But it’s a struggle, because, once you leave, there’s a lot that comes with that that you don’t think about until you start going through it,” Anderson said.

A lot of the struggle comes down to finances and housing. In the past, victims would be turned away from traditional shelters when they were full. But in recent years, the Family Safety Center has partnered with apartment complexes and hotels to add more emergency housing for domestic violence victims.

“Now that we have access to those rooms we don’t have to turn anyone away. We can serve large families, and sometimes we get families with eight or nine children,” Executive Director Olliette Murry Drobot said.

In 2018, the Family Safety Center and their partners housed 900 people with more than half of them being children. That’s triple the average number of people they helped house the year before.

“That’s a major concern for clients that are coming through the doors who are thinking about leaving, or who have left. Where are they going to go? Where are they going to stay?” Drobot said.

At the end of 2017, police implemented new protocols when responding to domestic abuse calls. It’s allowed them to connect more victims with resources faster.

Last year 2,700 people went to the Family Safety Center for services, not just for housing. In 2019, they expect to have 500 more than that.

The Family Safety Center also recently launched a new program where they provide vouchers to families looking for permanent housing. The family pays 30 percent of their income toward the housing and the Family Safety Centers covers the rest.

It’s a year-and-a-half long program to help get back on their feet.

“So that really provides them the opportunity to save up some money, kind of figure out what they’re going to do long term so they don’t have to worry about being homeless,” Drobot said.

Sadly it’s something many victims worry about, like Anderson, who’s now in a house with her son.

“It’s hard being able to pay your bills, worrying about how you’re going to feed your child, ever go off work,” she said. But she says to her her son say he’s proud of her and to know they’re safe makes it all worth it.

“I’d rather be behind on everything and us be safe then go back to a situation that’s not safe.”

She says if she can do it, so can anyone else out there who is suffering.

If you or anyone you know is a victim of domestic violence, you’re encouraged to call the Family Safety Center at (901)-222-4400. They’re also always looking for housing partners and donations for victims.

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