Families come to us in times of crisis. However, when they arrive, they are in a healing place. When women, new staff or volunteers, or other visitors visit Dixon House for the first time, they are often surprised to find that it looks and feels like a home. This is constant.
That said, Dixon House is still a place of transition. Though the women and children share common experiences, and the staff remain steady and reliable, no two families are the same, and the energy and personality of a given set of residents at Dixon House changes from month to month.
What we see often, and especially recently, is exceptional drive and determination in the women who take refuge at Dixon House.
Women have been highly motivated to find housing, secure or maintain employment, or move forward in other ways. Underlying each woman’s different goal is a determination to face the future on her own terms.
Here is a little snapshot of the families who came and went at Dixon House these past few months, with examples of some of the different barriers they face.
Regaining guardianship of children
Women experiencing violence often must fight a system that is not designed with them and their experience of violence in mind. If anything, the system often fails women.
For example, if a mother is not able to leave an abuser—for multiple reasons, including the real possibility of violent retaliation (women are at most risk when they leave the abuser)—children might be removed from the home, and mothers can lose guardianship.
Removing guardianship from women experiencing abuse, or threatening to remove guardianship, often fails to take into account the intricacies and complexities of domestic violence.
One of the women we served, Ashley, faced this challenge when she arrived at Dixon House.
However, while staying with us, Ashley was able to regain guardianship of her children. Not only is this meaningful in its own right, regaining guardianship has empowered Ashley to be a more confident mother.
Regaining independence after Dixon House
For other families, moving forward meant securing Second Stage Housing and maintaining access to the support they felt they needed to continue their healing journey.
Katherine came to Dixon House pregnant, and worked tirelessly to find independence, financially and legally. At Dixon, she found emotional support from staff while she advocated for herself with different agencies. Now, she and her baby have found a new temporary home at our Second Stage Housing program.
“It’s not easy moving to a new place with a newborn,” she admitted, “but every day I’m grateful and feel blessed to be here.”
Katherine is just as resilient and determined as the day she arrived at Dixon House. She isn’t shy about asking support from staff at Wenda’s Place. She always reaches out to Child Support Worker, Nicole, when she needs help with her baby, and she is diligent in setting up appointments with Women’s Support Worker, Maria, to receive support with her finances, legal documents, or translation.
Starting over and making ends meet
But life can be complicated.
Donors and community members often ask us about the structure of our housing programs. How do women move from transition house to second to third stage to independence? What does that look like?
But sometimes the story isn’t always so straightforward, and even as women heal, they must still set new goals and encounter new challenges, which they face with ever consistent resiliency and strength.
Even working full-time, Diane—a hardworking mother—found that living costs were hard to keep up with.
At Dixon House, she could access food and basic supplies, like gas gift cards so that she could get to work. She successfully secured permanent subsidized housing with help from our staff. Thanks to volunteers at our friends from Shelter Movers, she was able to move. Still, Diane found that she was coming up short on making ends meet.
Through our donations program, Diane was able to acquire furniture, food, and household items such as microwaves, toaster ovens, plates and cutlery. Having these seemingly simple items helps to offset the start up costs of moving to a new home.
“It can be a little embarrassing for me to ask for help, but I knew that I could turn to Dixon,” said Diane. “It isn’t easy to be on my own, but I’m so grateful for Dixon’s continuous support. My kids and I will be grateful for the rest of our lives. What a blessing for my family, and many more families.”