Shelter Community Living Team Spotlight
Written by Kenny S., Safe Harbor Outreach Coordinator
Recently, I sat down with Safe Harbor’s Shelter Community Living team. I asked them the first question that one would typically ask when wanting to learn about someone’s job. “What does your typical day look like?”
I was surprised when I was met with a bit of hesitation. The team explained to me that while there are daily tasks that need to be done in the shelters, there is not much of an “average day” for this team. The day may begin early in the morning, or late in the evening, if you’re on the night shift, and there are daily duties that need to be done. Oftentimes, the effects of trauma and the needs of shelter residents run on their own schedule, so there is a lot of flexibility needed.
The Shelter Community Living Team stays very busy, making sure that our shelters are staffed 24/7 to provide those fleeing domestic violence a safe place to stay. The day is jam-packed with shift logs, emails and phone calls, room checks, documentation updates, and all the other needs that come along with shelter life. However, that is far from the end of the list of to-dos for a Shelter Community Living team member. The staff may need to go on supply runs, make repairs around the shelter, and they also, often provide emotional support for shelter residents.
It is a courageous and difficult process for a domestic violence survivor to enter a shelter, a communal living situation filled with strangers, and to make it “home” for a season. The Shelter Community Living team members work diligently to keep our shelter environments welcoming and positive, providing a safe and trauma-informed space for our clients during their healing journey. This work includes helping people from a variety of backgrounds, cultures, and trauma experiences to feel safe and valued during their stay with us. Team members use trauma-informed care techniques, de-escalation techniques, and conflict resolution to help our clients navigate their new living situation.
Shelter Community Living team members hold an important perspective in understanding our clients’ journeys during their time in our programs. They are there to assist as a client enters shelter and to celebrate when clients take the next step in their journey. The work is challenging, recognizing they may never know the future of some of our clients once they exit shelter. Regardless of how long a client or family chooses to be in our shelter program, this team has an impact on every client and child that comes through our shelter doors. Our Facilities Coordinator, Brandi shared, “We may not get to see everything, but we are here when they have nowhere to go and we are here for them to move forward and to take a breath.”
Knowing that this work is hard, I also asked: “Why? Why do you choose this work when it can be so difficult?”
It is the drive to help others that keeps this team coming back every day. Jae, a House Manager for our Shelter Program, shared, “I’m a people person, I like helping and doing things with other people.”
Christina, another House Manager shared, “What got me into this work is wanting to help someone in need. Not only are we helping our adult clients, but we are helping their children as well. I love seeing the progress that they are making as they are reaching their goals.”
Keisha, our Director of Shelter Operations, shared why she continues to do this work after 15 years at Safe Harbor: “I believe in the mission of the agency. I believe people heal in community and we're providing a warm, peaceful and encouraging environment for them. I enjoy seeing them overcome their fears and meet their goals. I enjoy the day-to-day not being the same. I enjoy how it makes me continue to learn and grow. It's personal work.”
When asked how to describe the work they do, Michelle, a House Manager on the Shelter Community Living team, summed it up in one word – servanthood. “Me being a survivor myself, I wish there were servants back then, who could walk with me and have helped me through my experience”, elaborated Michelle. “We are here to serve and walk with them on their journey in whatever capacity that may look like. We are here in support of what they’re going through.”
These words reflect the goals of everyone on this amazing team. They work on the front lines to be sure that all the survivors who come through our doors feel empowered and supported. I think Keisha rang true when she described the goals of the Shelter Community Living team: “Our team is planting seeds and healing is possible for all of our clients.”
Thank you to our Community Living team for taking the time to meet with me and discuss the incredible work that they do 24/7, 365. Safe Harbor is so grateful to have a team of dedicated, passionate, and caring individuals who show up every day to help our clients in what is often their greatest time of need.
I hope that in reading this you have a better view of a day in the life of a Shelter Community Living team member. This team also relies on volunteers to help with shelter projects, providing meals to shelter clients, and many other projects. If you are interested in working with this awesome team, go to our volunteer page to learn more about how to get involved!