While many of us were sitting down to Christmas dinner this year, Family Shelter hotline staff was answering calls from distressed individuals. As the revelers in Times Square counted down to midnight on New Year’s Eve, people were calling our hotline looking for shelter, resources, counseling… and sometimes, someone to just listen.
Each day, those affected by domestic abuse have the opportunity to find help and solace through Family Shelter’s hotline, which is staffed 24 hours/day and seven days a week.
Assistant Shelter Director Lisa Horne described a recent call. “Shelter Advocate Jennifer Ward was on a hotline call for close to an hour and I could actually hear the caller crying on the phone,” Lisa said. “Jennifer was giving her the support and validation she needed when they were suddenly disconnected.
“The woman called back and I answered the call,” Lisa continued. “She asked me to please tell Jennifer how much she appreciated her kindness. She told me that no one has ever spent that amount of time listening and not judging her; she said that she reaches out to friends on a regular basis and she usually feels worse afterwards because it makes her feel more isolated.”
At one point in their conversation, the woman mentioned one of her coping strategies and Lisa praised her for it. “She just broke down crying and said, ‘Oh my God, I’m finally doing something right. For the first time ever I feel successful — even if it’s just that little thing.’”
Hotline staffers daily encounter people who have nowhere to turn, friends and family who may underestimate the severity of the situation — or individuals with community ties in another state, or even another country. For these people the hotline is a lifeline to a better future… and has been since 1977 when it was Family Shelter’s first official program.
In its initial month of operation, 38 calls were made to the hotline. Today, approximately 600 calls come in each month — about 7,000 annually. In addition to victims themselves, the calls come from concerned friends and family members, area hospitals, schools and other referring community agencies. DuPage County protocol also requires that police officers call into the Family Shelter hotline following any domestic violence call. Family Shelter victim advocates then follow up with these individuals to check on their well-being.
According to Family Shelter Service Shelter Director Connie O’Gorman, each day on the hotline brings a different experience. “Sometimes hotline staff members will consult with each other concerning a particular situation,” she said. “Working the hotline is always a growing and learning experience. And knowing that we’re here just means an awful lot.”
Do you know someone who needs the services of Family Shelter Service? Please have them call our hotline at 630-469-5650.