The early founders of Family Shelter Service faced many challenges. Many of them were sheltering abused women and children in their own homes after it had become obvious that a place where victims of domestic abuse could get help was much-needed.
The reality of actually starting an organization for domestic violence victims, however, was another matter. In the mid-1970s, most people had never heard of domestic violence; and for those familiar with it, it was often accepted as a fact of life. Family Shelter’s founders faced an uphill battle, but with the help of area organizations and community advocates, they were able to take the first all-important steps.
Addison Township donated the first $5,000. A community development block grant was obtained with the assistance of Wood Dale and Glen Ellyn as co-sponsors. Funding from Downers Grove, and York and Milton Townships soon followed. The Chicago Community Trust also helped the early founders to organize the effort.
In 1977, Family Shelter’s first program — the hotline — opened for business.
Housed in a small office in a church basement, it operated eight hours per day. In its first month of operation, the hotline received 38 crisis calls from all areas of DuPage County. Of these, 21 stated specifically that they were being abused, 18 requested shelter and nine were able to be placed with one of Family Shelter’s network of seven area families who had offered to house abused women and children in an emergency.