Monday, September 24, 2012

Domestic Violence and Financial Freedom

Imagine you’ve just run from your home in fear, with your children at your side. You’ve moved into a shelter, so you’re living with a bunch of strangers. You feel safe for the first time in a long time, but then the reality sets in: “What am I going to do for money?”

Your abusive partner didn’t allow you to have a job, or handle the finances. At first, you thought that was a dream come true. Now you realize it was all about controlling and isolating you. You haven’t held a job in years, and have never paid bills.

This is a typical scenario for Hope House clients. That’s why, with the support of The Women’s Foundation, we offer a Self Sufficiency Program. The advocates that lead the program work with our clients individually and in groups to help them learn about how to handle their money, and increase their employability. 

In a 2009 study examining issues of concern to women in the Kansas City area, women identified “employment and finance” as the second most important issue facing them today. Within that category, participants identified the importance of job training, access to long-term employment, financial education, and accessible transportation.

Survivors of domestic violence face these same struggles in addition to living in constant fear. The financial cost of leaving an abusive partner can be overwhelming. Once a woman leaves her partner, she becomes solely responsible for providing for her family. 

In Hope House’s most recently completed fiscal year, 10/1/10 – 9/30/11, the average annual income for families sheltered at Hope House was only $4,447 without financial support from the abuser; 93% were below poverty; 54% reported no income at all.

With little or no income, it is impossible for many survivors to immediately be self-sufficient and provide for the basic needs of food, shelter, and adequate healthcare coverage for themselves and their children.

Through the Self-Sufficiency Program, Hope House offers survivors of domestic violence an opportunity to gain both knowledge and skills in financial literacy and job readiness. With these new skills available to her, a mom can now support her kids.

She doesn’t have to wonder if she should return to her abuser because she had no other way to pay the bills. She’s empowered to start a new life, free from abuse.

Friday, September 14, 2012

New Young Professionals Group Formed

­Our guest blogger this week is Ashley Gillard, Hope House Board Member and chair of Hope House Young Professionals.

I am so proud to introduce Hope House Young Professionals (HHYP) as the newest edition to the Hope House family.  It started as an idea just a year ago, which turned into planning, and finally into an official group just a few months ago. 

The purpose for forming this group is to tap into the resources young professionals bring to the table.  Members of the group are from all areas of Kansas City and work in a variety of industries, from law to health care to psychology and beyond. 

Our members offer a willingness to take on new projects for Hope House’s benefit, and to create their own fundraising events that target other young professionals in the area. 

While people in the beginning of their careers may not be able to make a large monetary donation to Hope House, they can offer a yearly membership (only $30), participate in fundraising happy hours, and spread awareness about Hope House to their peers and at their places of work. 

You might wonder why I was so anxious to get this group started.  My journey to become a Hope House Board Member and the chair of HHYP began eight years ago.  It all started in my first women’s studies course as an undergraduate, which opened my eyes to all of the difficulties women face in our world. 

But, what truly changed my life forever was the day I met 16-year-old Nicole. It was the first day of my women’s studies internship at the local sheriff’s office in their domestic violence unit. 

On that day, Nicole had told her mother that her grandfather had been abusing her for years.  They came to the sheriff’s office to seek help in obtaining a restraining order against her grandfather.

Nicole was scared and worried.  But with the help of those around her and the local resources, she made it through the restraining order hearing and through those first difficult months.

What Nicole made me realize is that domestic violence is in all the places you expect, plus all the places you wouldn't expect.  If you and I don’t help in whatever way we can, then people like Nicole might not have caring people around them to help carry them through to better days. 

The Hope House Young Professionals group aims to be a vehicle for change.  HHYP allows people to step up and do what they can to become involved in an important cause. 

Becoming a member is simple.  For $30, you can become a HHYP member for a year, which puts you on our invite list for happy hours and fundraising events like Margarita Ball.   If you’re interested feel free to sign up on the Hope House website
, or contact me for more information at

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Trip Down Memory Lane

This was the Hope House shelter when I started
working here. It was the shelter from 1987 to 1995. 
I have been taking a trip down memory lane this week. 20 years ago, on September 2, 1992, I started my first job at Hope House as a Women’s Therapist.

I first joined the Hope House staff shortly after graduating with my Master of Social Work (MSW) degree in 1989, but left after 6 months to pursue another opportunity.

I was lured by more money and the thought that I would have more opportunities elsewhere. While I really liked the other jobs, I knew my true calling was at Hope House.

When there was an opening, I was thrilled to “come back home”. To say I never should have left wouldn’t be true. I learned a lot while I was gone; mostly how much I appreciated and loved working with those who have been affected by domestic violence.

In the past 20 years, I have grown so much personally and professionally. I loved working directly with the clients in shelter. I learned that these survivors have:
  •          Strength
  •          Optimism in the face of many obstacles
  •          Perseverance
  •          Grace
  •          Creativity
  •          Determination to make it another day
I have said before that victims of domestic violence are the strongest people I have ever met. I saw so much of that when I was their therapist and shelter director.

20 years later, as the CEO of Hope House, I'm looking forward to many more years of working to end the cycle of domestic violence. Thank you for your support and encouragement along the way.