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A reader writes … By Barbara Shaver, Ph.D.

May 25, 2001

As executive director of the Center for Family Solutions, I can respond to the letter in PROBE, April 27 inquiring about a shelter resident employed with our organization.

Emergency shelter is open to any woman alone or with children who is a victim of domestic violence or who is homeless for any other reason. At this time our emergency shelter is not open to men due to funding legislation, but all our other programs are available for men as well as women and their children and we will assist men to secure shelter at the Guadalupe men's shelter upon request.

Safety is our most important goal. Once a battered woman and her children are safe, our primary goal is to end the battering and restore the intact family to good health through utilization of our many programs. Some former batterers who have completed our anger-management program have written us eloquent testimonies about how their lives have changed; they also testify to this before the judges who have sentenced them to attend the classes. This result is what we most hope to achieve. However, if the batterer does not change his behavior, there is the option of transitional shelter for the battered woman and her children.


Transitional shelter is open to any woman with children who has been homeless or is near homeless for any reason, except if she is a victim or former victim of domestic violence she must have ended her relationship with her abuser. Landlords in the Imperial Valley would never rent apartments to us for transitional housing if a batterer were to start showing up making threats and/or brandishing weapons or frightening other tenants in their apartment complexes.

Some batterers won't let go of their victims, repeatedly break their restraining orders and continue to harass their victims and stalk them in spite of their legal orders to restrain from doing so. Unfortunately, the Imperial Valley Press has occasion to print gruesome stories about incidents of abuse between domestic partners; these victims are better off in our emergency shelter where they are safe. We will not place clients who are still victimized into transitional shelters.

The objective of the transitional shelter program is to afford former victims and women with children who are homeless or formerly homeless for other reasons an opportunity to receive an education and/or work training to enable them to become independent and economically able to care for themselves and their children. To this end, all our shelter residents, both in emergency and transitional shelters, are assisted in completing their GED, receive educational classes in our Center Against Domestic Violence (English as a second language, computer skills, bookkeeping, drivers education, nutrition, parenting classes and a service called basic life skills that includes job preparation and money management, self-esteem and others.)

Some opt to enter Imperial Valley College to earn an associate's degree in a field such as law enforcement, legal aid, nursing, early childhood education or another field that will enable them to be economically independent. Those who choose this option must maintain a 2.0 grade-point average and make satisfactory progress toward their degrees. Those who do not choose an academic objective must begin working or enter a job-training program and progress satisfactorily through it.

Our transitional shelters are not a low-income housing project. Residents are charged 30 percent of their income for rent each month. This is saved for them and returned when they have completed their goals upon their departure from shelter. When they are assisted by us to move into permanent housing; they may use these savings to pay deposits, the first and last months' rent, and secure what they need to establish their households in addition to whatever they select from among the donations to our thrift store (given to them free of charge.)

Whenever we at the Center for Family Solutions have a job opening we encourage the women in our shelters who are interested to submit an application. After all, what we are all about is encouraging the clients to secure work and become independent. If a client in shelter is the best-qualified for the job, we are happy to hire her. Through the years we have hired six employees who have been shelter residents (some have later moved on to other jobs). They provide excellent role models of women who have survived their battering and its emotional consequences and gone on to have successful lives. And who better to assist and understand our clients' problems than one who has herself been a victim?

Similarly, we have occasionally employed an ex-batterer who has completed our batterers' treatment program to facilitate classes in anger management. Drug and alcohol treatment programs often employ their "graduates" to be group leaders in the same way.

The statement that "there is a long waiting list" for transitional shelter occupancy is untrue. We have one vacancy now, and expect to have two more before the end of the summer. The six units are all in Holtville, Imperial and El Centro. The locations of the two new units are not known at this time.

Applications for this program are available at the Center for Family Solutions office at 395 Broadway, Suite 5 in El Centro, and we invite qualified candidates to apply for residence.

BARBARA M. SHAVER, Ph.D., is executive director of the Center for Family Solutions.

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