Survey the women living at ABCCM’s Steadfast House, and you’ll find that around 50 percent are survivors of domestic violence. It’s likely that most, if not all, have observed violence in their lives at some point. Domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness for women and children in the United States, and a lack of affordable housing options is regularly reported by survivors as a primary barrier to escaping abuse, according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month across the country. The staff and volunteers at Steadfast House for women and children are always focused on giving the residents access to programs that help address the trauma they’ve experienced. This year, Steadfast House volunteers have been at the forefront of bringing the concept of trauma-informed care to the 43 women and children undergoing their transformation there.
“We have been making a concerted effort to become a facility that operates from an understanding of trauma-informed care,” said Steadfast House Director Angela Catania. “By providing a safe and welcoming environment, we can continue to work with our women to help move them from a place of hopelessness to a place of self-sufficiency and independence.”
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, trauma-informed care “organizations, programs, and services are based on an understanding of the vulnerabilities or triggers of trauma survivors that traditional service delivery approaches may exacerbate, so that these services and programs can be more supportive and avoid re-traumatization.”
Steadfast House volunteers recently started a program called Steadfast Partners, which seeks to bring trauma-informed care to the level of the facility’s youngest residents. The program works to mitigate the effects of trauma by engaging families and providing a safe space for children to play, learn, grow and be encouraged by caring adults. Volunteers are consciously paired with a child in the program with whom they will be a supportive, caring, encouraging, patient, safe and consistent partner each week. Volunteers went through a day-long training session that included a discussion of trauma-informed care and how it can make a difference.
Volunteers from BB&T’s Lighthouse Project spent part of a service day painting the Steadfast House educational playroom a gentle pastel blue, which is considered calming for those dealing with trauma. A few weeks later, volunteers from Lowe have painted the hallways in similarly toned colors. Trauma-informed care colors are also planned for Transformation Village, ABCCM’s vision for ending homelessness for women and children.
“We want to make sure our environment is one of calmness and therapeutic support,” Angela Catania said. “One of the ways Steadfast House can achieve this goal is through painting our facility with trauma-informed care colors.”
Steadfast House recently introduced a volunteer-led course called Poetry of Transformation, taught by Mary Ellen Lough-Phillips, who is a Poetry as Medicine facilitator. The course will cover the basics of poetry and allow residents to share their stories with others in a safe place. It will also teach mindfulness techniques to help residents better relate to their lives.
In 2016, nearly 77 percent of Steadfast House residents who successfully completed the program remained stably housed following their exit. We know those numbers will remain strong in 2017 with the trauma-informed care approach to help support our women and children.
How can you get involved with helping transform lives at Steadfast House? Call (828) 398-6985 to speak with the Steadfast House volunteer coordinator.