What is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month? Since 1980, Stepping Stones emergency shelter for homeless women & children and our helpline has been open 24/7/365. 98% of the women & children we serve in our emergency shelter, non-shelter advocacy and support programs and transitional living programs, describe their current crisis/unmanageable situation as having its roots in domestic violence. Over 80% of the women that come into our programs are also struggling with some form of substance abuse themselves. All of our advocates are trained to serve homeless women & their children addressing the traditional issues around housing, personal finance, parenting, empowerment and resiliency. But early on, we also trained our advocates to be very knowledgeable & skilled in addressing co-existing issues of domestic violence in all forms, other types of trauma and victimization, and substance abuse/dependency issues. We knew early on that if we really wanted to help these families change their lives, find their way out of poverty, homelessness, or whatever type of crisis situation they were experiencing – we had to become skilled at addressing more than just the traditional surface issues. We had to expose and examine the deeper issues that were potentially contributing to keeping families vulnerable to repeated victimization or unmanageability.
In honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, all of us at Stepping Stones want to acknowledge the 24/7/365 dedication of our advocates and the work they do. These highly skilled advocates are peers, mentors, sisters and knowledgeable advisors to the women who come to us or call us daily. They are loving and nurturing caregivers to the hundreds of children who walk through our doors. Here are some comments from women who have completed their service program or were helped in some way by our advocates:
Rene L. – “Today is one of the worst days I have had in months. I do not want to leave this wonderful place and my kids are crying because they don’t want to leave Erica. The advocates keep telling me that I can come back if I ever need to, I can come by for group whenever I need to, and I can call and talk to them 24/7 if I need to. But it won’t be the same as actually living in this special home. Kathy and Betty have stuck with me to help me change my life and Erica has been a second mom to my kids. To all the women who will come into Stepping Stones after I leave – I know you are scared and some of you don’t even want to be here – but believe me, it is the best thing that can ever happen to you. Listen to your advocates with an open mind and if you choose to, you can change your whole life and you will be amazed.”
Sandy M. – “Thank you Stepping Stones advocates – Kathy and “the gang” loved me when I didn’t love myself. Even when I told them I was going job hunting and Kathy saw me at Harkins going to the movie – they didn’t judge me or make me feel like a bad person. Boy did I need to be somewhere that people liked me even on bad days. I think my 7-year-old even likes me again. Sure seems like it. Kathy and Susan, I know I changed my service plan like a million times, but you stuck with me and here I am 4 ½ months later, with a job you helped me get, a great apartment you helped me find and after paying my deposits I have $213 in the bank. I hated having to go over my savings plan with you every week, but it sure paid off. I just wish I would’ve done it a lot sooner. Anyway, I am so lucky that as I go off to my new life, I can count on all of you to be in my corner and to call you friends. My son and I have never had anything like it before.”
All of us at Stepping Stones want to give a great big huge THANK YOU to our advocates that work tirelessly to make sure our services are available to our West Yavapai Community 24/7 and conduct themselves with such grace, dedication and humility – because they always remember: “There but for the grace of God go I”.