Family Shelter Service — A Safe Haven From Domestic Violence

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October 2012 View more

NMAG1012_NeighborhoodDomestic violence has been called the silent epidemic. Unfortunately, cities like Naperville, and counties like DuPage, experience a large number of domestic violence cases annually.
Police reported 5,841 incidents of domestic violence last year in DuPage County, 680 of those incidents occurring in Naperville.

Family Shelter Service, a non-profit organization with locations in Naperville, Wheaton, Glen Ellyn and Downers Grove, has been on the front lines assisting victims of domestic violence for the past 36 years.

Karen Hurley-Kuchar, executive director of Family Shelter Service, and her staff, which includes nearly 200 volunteers, are on the front lines assisting victims and their families in need.

“I know that I have the best staff in world,” said Hurley-Kuchar. “I’m always impressed with the courage of our clients to come forward. A lot of times it’s for their children. They’re the real heroes here.”

Hurley-Kuchar said technological advances have certainly helped Family Shelter Service combat domestic violence by providing instant access to immediate help. “One interesting thing that’s happened over the last 15 years is use of technology, which is good,” she said. But Hurley-Kuchar explained that the use of cell phones and texting, for example, can also work against victims of domestic violence.

“All that technology comes with the possibility of it being used against her. He (the abuser) can use a cell phone to text and stalk her. The use of technology has changed how to be safe as a victim,” said Hurley-Kuchar.

To further bolster its efforts to help victims — especially those who live east of Route 53 — Family Shelter Service opened its first public building in January 2008. The custom-built, 10,000-square-foot facility, called the Downers Grove Community Counseling Center and Shelter, cost around $4 million to build and was financed through a capital campaign funded by foundations and individuals.

“We didn’t have any shelters or any kind of facility east of Route 53,” said Robbie MacRoy, the agency’s director of development. “We didn’t have a facility even though, in fact, we had a quarter of our clients from here (the Downers Grove area) so we built the shelter.”

The Community Counseling Center and Shelter offers immediate, short-term shelter for victims. The center’s client section, which is private, includes 29 beds, a communal kitchen, a living room and dining room. Then, if needed, Family Shelter Service provides victims with intermediate housing for up to 18 months to help them move toward independent living.

One of the intermediate housing facilities is located in Naperville. The City also is home to one of Family Shelter Service’s Second Chance Retail shops located at Ogden Avenue and Naper Boulevard, where clients and their families are able to shop for free to obtain necessities such as clothes and household items.

A bulk of Family Shelter Service’s non-residential counseling takes place at the Community Counseling Center and Shelter. During the 2011-12 fiscal year, approximately 140 residential and 704 non-residential clients were served through the community counseling program in Downers Grove.

Family Shelter Service also offers a number of other programs and services designed to help women and children rebuild their lives:

• A crisis hotline, which is staffed by volunteers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In 2011, the agency fielded nearly 7,000 hotline calls.

• Individual and group counseling services, emergency shelter, and intermediate housing for women and children.

• Children’s programs.

• Support groups.

• Employment assistance and financial literacy programs.

• PEACE, a domestic violence prevention and community engagement program.

• A Latina program for Latina victims of domestic violence.