Dixon House: A snapshot

Category : Blog , Stories of Dixon

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.

Text reading "a snapshot of Dixon Transition House" on a photo of a flower bush against a blue sky

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.”


K.’s Story

Category : Stories of Dixon

They met as children.

They married the first chance they had at the strike of adulthood.  She was excited and looking forward to having her own family.

When they moved to Vancouver, things began to shift. No longer did they have the accountability of family and a community that knew them. He wanted to control her, he was jealous of her potential to thrive and desire to be independent so he kept her isolated and estranged to the new surroundings. He began to hit her.

She hated it and was embarrassed to talk about it. When people would ask about the bruises on her arms, she would say she fell at home. It made things simpler.

She became pregnant and he became more aggressive. Fighting for her safety, she contacted the police. He was removed from the house for a brief time, but then his friends threatened her, forcing her to deny the case so that his record could be clear. For the sake of her life and the child’s, it seemed like the best thing to do.

He knew he controlled her resources, especially now with an infant. He spoke of crippling her so that she would have to rely on him more fully. She wanted out, though she hated the idea of single motherhood. She knew no one in her new neighborhood and had nothing; she expected to suffer.

And while she endured much, her will to survive remained strong.  She left anyway, because she is brave.

She wanted her kid to have a normal family life so she returned a few short days later —he was angrier and the situation continued to spiral.

At school, she had met a teacher who seemed to suspect what was happening. The teacher would offer help and said to call anytime. She insisted to the teacher that he would change. He didn’t.

One night she called the teacher and cried out for help. Again, she went through the courageous ritual of gathering her child and her things and boldly stepping away from what had been her only source of stability. She was welcomed into Dixon Transition House and offered safety and freedom. She eventually moved to her own housing. Things seemed to be better.

Six years later, she yearned for a fresh start in a different city. She arranged an agreement with the child’s father that would allow their son to go with her. When they went to sign the papers, he lied and said there was no agreement. In a shriek of devastation, she knew this couldn’t be right.  She’d have nothing. She had told housing she was leaving and had quit her job.

“She’s homeless and can’t take care of the child,” he said to the judge. And he went home with the child.

She returned to the transition house—the most supportive network she had in the area. Staff told her not to give up even though he wanted her to give up; that’s what this was all about. She kept fighting.

That transition program became her family, her friends and her motivation. She never went back to him after that. She knows now she can do it on her own; she believes in herself. She has a drive to always become better version of her old self.

Staff listened to her in counseling, walked her through the legal system, gave her space to persevere and realize her own strength.

“I have many goals,” she says now. Her body squirms and her teeth show as she giggles with joy and confidence.  So many goals and dreams, she says, she looks forward to so much: school, a career in healthcare, and finally regaining custody of her son in the weeks to come after months of being apart.

Her first and best interest has always been him. She wants him to finish this school year and every one that follows. She has resources to raise him well now; she wants to show him a better way than that of his father.

“Anyone who loves you will not abuse you,” she proudly pronounces. She knows that now. She knows there are women who hide in the same dark shame and embarrassment she once did.

She employs innovative thought today, not backing down to problems and setbacks. She believes she has the strength to find a solution to anything and to help others who have walked a similar journey to hers. Most of all, she knows that whatever it is and however long it might take, she can and she will overcome.


Mother & Daughter

Category : Stories of Dixon

From the day they were married as teenagers, he mistreated her.

She wanted out, but he shamed her. He told her nobody else would love her or want her. That she was helpless and hopeless without him.

One night he hit her so hard he broke something over her head. With threats of death spewing, one of the daughters tried to intervene he hit her too. That was the final straw; and in her agony-turned-strength, she called the police.

When the police came, they took him to jail and took her and the children to a shelter.

But after some easy manipulation of the criminal justice system, he walked out free the next day.

She worked hard to move on with her life. She lived in her own place and got a job. She is responsible and capable and to no one’s surprise but to his utmost jealousy, she performed well.

***

The youngest daughter had not yet finished high school. She is smart as a whip, loved to learn and desperately wanted to go to school.  Unfortunately years of abuse and the resulting anxiety slowed her down.

When she finally got to a classroom though, her father would come find her.  This was his way of now controlling her and practicing misogyny over her life and her decisions. His constantly showing up at the school to watch her led to even greater disturbance and eventually she was asked to leave the school. It wasn’t safe for her to be there. She wouldn’t return for eight years.

***

He stalked her mother at work too. He was worried that she might actually move on with her life. In an effort to control her, shame her and disrupt her life and work, he would show up at work at all hours during her shift. He would act paranoid, wondering if she was with another man; she was terrified he would kill her.  Eventually she too was told his incessant presence was hurting business and she could no longer work.

The weight was unbearable. The kids kept her in it. She knew they needed her; they loved her, they needed each other.

***

“We used to have to whisper to each other in the kitchen, so he wouldn’t hear us,” the youngest daughter said. They wouldn’t sit next to each other so he wouldn’t get suspicious. The fear of his lashing out robbed them of their freedom.

These women battled. They were bold in seeking help, even after being let down by the justice system. They were brave in leaving once more. When they got connected to Dixon Transition House, everything changed. The fear lingered, and still does, but their safety remains protected and now their strength shines.

“We are healthy, we are strong, we are out,” she says confidently.

She wants to go back to work. She’s a talented cook and would love to sell her food.

Her daughter is back in school, now in her 30s, and just days away from finishing grade 12. The corners of her mouth perk up and her eyes sparkle when she says it.

“I see myself now as grown,” she says. “Before I was like a helpless infant, always being told what to do and what not to do.” She says she doesn’t think that way anymore.

Their relationship is strong—stronger than ever. The mother considers her grown children her dearest friends. They cherish her in return. They know how much she endured for them. The whole family has regained its life and freedom; they’re never going back.

It’s not easy. They take things day by day; step by step. Her daughter remembers how many times she wanted to give up.

“But my mom always says the light always comes after darkness. We can have our own life, the life we wanted. The past can fade; there is a better life waiting for us.”


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