Editor's Note: This continues our Celebrate Community series on nonprofit organizations that improve residents' quality of life.
CRESTVIEW—When a victim of sexual assault or domestic violence needs a community to turn to, Shelter House is ready with resources and support.
Shelter House’s Crestview location provides outreach counseling for male and female victims of domestic violence and recently added a full-time sexual violence advocate to its staff.
“Our advocates meet survivors in the office, attend court hearings with them and go out to North Okaloosa Medical Center to respond to sexual assault calls,” public relations coordinator Laura Lucy said.
These services are nothing new to the team at Shelter House. The nonprofit organization was created after a 1985 assessment by the League of Women Voters found a need for the services in Okaloosa and Walton counties.
“The advocate’s role is not to tell victims what to do but to inform them of their rights and assist them with exploring options available to them,” Lucy said.
Aside from advocates in its branches, Shelter House operates a 24-hour helpline for a range of information. Certified and trained employees can relay information, offer counseling and assist in safety planning for victims.
Services are also offered to secondary survivors, a term used for a victim’s personal support group.
“Advocates offer emotional support throughout [medical] exams and the interview process and can provide tangible resources such as clothing when the survivor leaves the hospital,” Lucy said.
In extreme cases, Shelter House operates a confidential safe house that victims can live in for a period to transition into a better situation.
The facility is staffed 24-7 by advocates and provides food and hygiene products. The shelter can accommodate up to 24 residents at a time.
Shelter House also comes to the aid of victims with pets, offering a safe home for furry friends during the transitional phase. This portion of the shelter opened in 2013, after indications that some women stayed in abusive situations due to pet ownership. Shelter House purportedly is the only domestic violence shelter in the region that offers pet services.
Advocates at the Crestview branch can be reached 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 683-0845. Call 863-4777 for 24-7 domestic violence assistance or 226-2027 for 24-7 sexual assault help.
The facility, location confidential, is always open to volunteers or donations. Contact the Shelter House program office at 243-1201 to learn more about these opportunities.