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A Day in the Life of a Raphael House Advocate

If you don’t work in a shelter, it can be hard to imagine life here.

What do we do all day? What do the people who live here do all day? Are there security cameras and gates? (Yes and yes.) Are there dorm rooms crammed with people? (No! Families live in private rooms at Raphael House.)

This story comes from our Director of Programs and Services, Emmy Ritter, and it does an amazing job of explaining the complexity of the work that goes on here and the resources we’re able to offer (but only with help from supporters like you!):

Late one afternoon in May I was working in my office when a staff member came to my door and said that she had mistakenly let a former resident into the building. As a staff we are very careful about who we allow in and have procedures in place but on this particular day things were hectic and as it turned out, this woman really needed to be let in.

She had just been released from the hospital after having been left for dead by her ex-husband. He had thrown her to the floor, beaten her badly, and strangled her. She was bruised and still shaken, even after a day in the hospital. Initially it was unclear why she had come to us, since she was staying in another shelter. After getting her some food and a change of clothes, we learned that her abuser had found out where the other shelter was located.

It was unsafe for her to return there and as usual, Raphael House was full. Fortunately, we have access to a small monthly allotment of motel vouchers. I was able to book her a room and she and I headed to the motel. We created a follow-up plan for her to stay there for three nights while working with one of our advocates during the day who would connect her with a new shelter space.

Well, things got a bit hairy from there. She did not have ID with her so the motel wouldn’t admit her. She didn’t have her phone, so she couldn’t contact our advocate for a meeting. She needed access to a food box, in addition to the change of clothes we’d already found. I spent hours advocating for the motel to admit her without ID and pulling together the other things her safety plan required. Finally, she was safe inside and I headed home. She would meet with our advocate at the Gateway Center the next day.

I was exhausted. 

I have done advocacy, counseling and therapy work with domestic violence survivors for many years and I have a sense of the challenges that women experience, the coping methods they use, and the risk factors they face. But I haven’t been doing direct service work since I was hired at Raphael House, and I realized that I have grown soft in the two years I have been removed from it. It was an important reminder of how hard our Raphael House Advocates work – and how dedicated they are to their jobs and to the survivors they work with. I was exhausted, and I had only worked with one person! And though I am well aware of the toll direct service jobs can take on a person, I had forgotten how that impact can feel.

I hope this story gives you a small picture of the work that happens here every day. Most people don’t get the opportunity to catch a glimpse of day to day life in the shelter, and even those of us who work here sometimes forget how vital, difficult, and ultimately rewarding this work can be.

I am thankful for the reminder.

    - Emmy Ritter, Director of Programs and Services

We know that you receive many emails and many appeals. And yes, this is another one. But first and foremost, if you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, our programs can help. Please contact us.

After that, if you are able, please make a contribution to support our work to end violence. Without you, none of this would be possible.

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