Domestic Violence Shelters at Capacity During Heat Wave

By Ken Kalthoff
|  Thursday, Aug 1, 2013  |  Updated 9:14 PM CDT
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During the summer heat, women and children trying to escape domestic violence find shelters are filled to capacity.

Ken Kalthoff, NBC 5 News

During the summer heat, women and children trying to escape domestic violence find shelters are filled to capacity.

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Victims of domestic abuse are finding North Texas shelters at maximum capacity during the scorching summer, according to domestic violence prevention advocates.

Debra Nixon Bowles with a group called ‘Women Called Moses’ said she has 50 women looking for shelter this week to escape abusive partners.

“I’m not afraid to use my voice to tell the community, we need your support,” Bowles said. “Not in other countries, not in other cities, we’re talking about Dallas, Texas.”

One of her clients is a woman, using the name “Sue” to conceal her identity since she says her abusive partner is stalking her.

Sue and her five children recently moved to a run down two bedroom home after the man they were hiding from found out where they were staying before.

“We have no food,” Sue said. “So I’m trying to figure out, how’s shelter for them now? What do we eat?”

The woman said she does not have the $600 a month rent the landlord expects her to pay.

“There’s not enough resources to make a woman feel secure that things are going to be OK. So that’s what leads us to go back and depend upon the abuser,” Sue said.

Bowles said advocates urge victims to leave violent situations but can’t always support the families once they do leave.

“That’s not the victims fault when we’re preaching this, we’re talking about it, and now that’s she’s with us and she’s made that move, that powerful move, and we have no place to place her," Bowles said. "It’s unacceptable."

Mayor Mike Rawlings made domestic violence a major focus of his administration this year.

The Mayor sponsored a March 23 City Hall rally to bring attention to the problem and recruit support from men to stop abuse of women in the first place.

“He put his voice out there, he put his face behind it,” Bowles said. “Now we need the community, agencies, churches, individuals, to get involved. We need them to get out here. We need to do fundraisers. We need more shelters in our city."

Jan Langbein, Executive Director of Genesis Women’s Shelter, confirmed that shelter space is extremely tight this summer.

She praised Mayor Rawlings effort to raise awareness and said he has continued talking with advocates since the rally and is still supporting their work.

“The challenge is still tremendous,” Langbein said.

Paige Flink with the Family Place Shelter said her organization also puts women up in hotels if necessary on an emergency basis when shelters are full.

But Flink said Dallas needs more long-term affordable housing options for abuse victims, combined with child care. Fink said these women need to support their children independent of abusive spouses.

Those options could help Sue.

“I had education under me and I had something going for myself before I started being abused,” Sue said.
 

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