Homeless in Cullman County: Victim Services expands shelter program for homeless women and children

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VSC’s facility provides a comfortable environment which appears to have support dog Bella’s approval. (Photo courtesy of VSC)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Since 1991, Victim Services of Cullman, Inc. (VSC) has offered short-term emergency shelter to victims of domestic violence and their children.  Not long ago, the agency’s leadership made the decision to expand the program to include certain others who might not yet have experienced violence.

VSC Executive Director Carol Horstman told The Tribune, “Recently, we have seen an increase in calls for shelter from women who are not victims of domestic violence but are homeless due to other circumstances. In addition, we have many shelter residents who may no longer be in danger, but still need more time in shelter to acquire employment, education and continue the supportive services that help them heal from the trauma of abuse and improve their economic security. Ensuring survivors are self-supportive lessens the likelihood that they will return to their abuser or will fall victim to future abuse.  

“To bridge this gap, Victim Services is opening a second shelter which will provide long-term shelter and transition services and will also provide temporary shelter to homeless women and children who are homeless.”

VSC could previously shelter up to 10 women with their accompanying children under the age of 18. The new facility can house up to 25 more.

Why would a domestic violence victims’ service agency extend its shelter service to those who may not have experienced violence?

Said Horstman, “Housing instability and a lack of safe and affordable housing increases the risks for women experiencing domestic violence.  Women often stay in or return to violent relationships because they have little or no access to money and very few friends or family members to rely on if she flees a violent relationship. Poor women, who are more vulnerable to homelessness, are also at greater risk of domestic violence. Poverty limits the victims’ choices and makes it harder for them to escape abusive relationships.”

VSC services

In addition to shelter, according to Horstman, “Victim Services offers support services to help victims heal and obtain knowledge and skills needed to empower them to reach the goal of independence.”

Those services include:

  • individualized counseling
  • support groups for adults and children
  • emotional support activities for children
  • assistance with protection orders
  • Crime Victims Compensation
  • court and medical accompaniment and advocacy
  • parenting classes
  • life skills classes
  • referrals for employment, housing, education, childcare etc. 
  • case management
  • safety planning. 

 

If needed, VSC has an on-staff Spanish interpreter, and a Spanish talk/text line is available at 256-708-4769.

If you had a blank check, what would VSC do?

Horstman shared a wish list that includes 

  • van for VSC to transport clients to and from appointments and jobs, as clients can be limited in job choices due to lack of transportation, or . . . 
  • public transportation system for Cullman that runs all hours
  • shelter for homeless males
  • shelter and services for homeless who are in need of addiction treatment and/or mental health services.  

 

For more information on VSC’s shelter and other services, visit www.victimservicesofcullman.com or call the administrative office at 256-775-2600. A 24-hour crisis line is available at 256-734-6100.

RELATED: www.cullmantribune.com/2019/11/30/homeless-in-cullman-county-unsheltered-international-talks-numbers-response

www.cullmantribune.com/2019/12/03/homeless-in-cullman-county-saving-forgotten-warriors-opening-temporary-housing-for-veterans

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VSC’s facility includes a playroom with custom-built equipment for children. (Photo courtesy of VSC)
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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com