In 2015, Fairfax County, Virginia police received an average of more than eight domestic violence calls for service each day. In many cases, the victim ultimately refuses to press charges or leave their abuser because they have nowhere to turn.
Because no one should have to choose between homelessness and abuse, Christian Relief Services, based in Fairfax County founded its Safe Places program to provide long-term transitional housing and support services for women and children fleeing domestic violence.
Women such as Antonia and her four children have a home today because of Safe Places after fleeing to a domestic violence shelter that only allowed them to stay for about a month. Without the Safe Places program, the family could have ended up living together in their car with no money for rent and nowhere else to go for help.
Antonia, an immigrant to the United States with no family in the country, had fallen out of love with her husband, but for the sake of her children, she stayed with him.
That is, until the day he assaulted her. She called police who charged her husband with domestic assault, received a 3-day protective order, and within two days she and her children were living in a shelter. She later sought and received a 15-day protective order and ultimately a two-year protective order.
Although she lost her job while she was living in the shelter, her 19-year-old daughter Catalina is the family breadwinner for the time being. But, with help from her Safe Places case worker, she is looking to find a new job, improve her English language skills and earn her U.S. citizenship in the next two years. Catalina hopes to earn a degree in nursing and start a career.
Antonia’s dream, when she completes the Safe Places program, is to be able to afford her own mobile home, and become a homeowner instead of paying rent all her life.
Today, despite the hardships and challenges, Antonia and Catalina are all smiles and laughter and full of joy.
“We are very happy and grateful for this opportunity and for Safe Places for helping us when we had nobody,” Antonia said. “And helping still.”
“She feels positive about the future,” adds Catalina.