Thu 13 Apr 2006
After much work, I was finally able to coordinate a time where I could actually do some on-site volunteer work at the Domestic Violence Shelter. After stating who I was and my purpose for being at the shelter, I was let in. I headed to the back of the house where all the offices are and met with Ms. Strand. My technical job description is to assist the shelter secretary, Ruth, but she was called out on an assignment; therefore, I was sent to the shelter manager Sherry for instruction on what to do at my time at the shelter. Sherry informed me that several women and children at the shelter were ill or had returned from a stay at the hospital; hence, it was important that we keep the house germ free. I was instructed to wipe all the surfaces (kitchen, dining tables/chairs, sofas, and playroom), in an effort to disinfect the communal areas. This took up the majority of my time at the shelter, but with the remaining few minutes I had, I used the time to make observations about the general shelter, and the interaction of the shelter manager and the victims. As the manager of the house, Sherry is familiar with all the names and matching faces of the victims, she makes it a point to speak kindly and personably to all of them when she views them in the common areas. Her work is obviously very personable, as it was evident that part of her job is to meet with the victims, go over their progress, assist them with their problems, and help them get on the pathway to self-sufficiency.
This process allowed me to observe the on goings in the shelter, which was beneficial because I got a preliminary sense as to how the shelter functions. It is evident that although the administrative portion of the shelter is attached to the same building, the house/shelter is definitely a separate agent form the administrative offices. The two sections are separated by a dividing, somewhat sound proof door; one would not be able to tell that the administrative offices are actually part of the shelter. The portions function somewhat separately as well. It seems as though the majority of the staff have minimal constant direct connection with the victims, but the victims do meet with Sherry regularly; her office is not in the administrative corner of the home, it is isolated near the entrance to the home. It appears that the placement of her office is strategic, as to make her equally accessible to both the victims and the administrative staff. Everyone in the office has a job or task that they are in charge of and know exactly what to do about; hence, there is little interaction among administrative staff. Everyone has their own office, where they remain most of the time unless they are forced to leave to do deal with a call.
Victim’s quarters are on the second floor of the home. Different rooms offer different services; meaning, some rooms will have a crib or second bed for victims with children. They are free to roam the non-administrative portion of the home as they feel. The lower level of the home not only houses the administrative portion of the residence, but it has a full service kitchen, dining area, sitting room, and what has been converted in to a play room full of toys for the children.
As the day begins, victims are reluctant to come down, but a few straggle downstairs giving me the pleasure of meeting them. Viewing these ladies made me realize how lucky I am to be able to lead my life without the fear of being battered by a family member or spouse. Furthermore, it strengthened my belief in social community service; meaning, the presence of organizations that not only work to help victims, but strive to eradicate the cause of trouble for the victims. Women in the shelter are being given a second chance to make a good life for themselves and their children. The ladies I saw looked like normal woman – someone you would see at work, the grocery store, or the bank, but they are all victims of domestic violence. This demonstrates the fact that even people we may know really well could be suffering from domestic violence, and that this is an issue that we all should be knowledgeable about.
Victims are allowed to stay at the shelter for 30 days, in which time the shelter has helped them with finding safe housing, protection, and a good job. The three individuals I met were all very kind and came up to me and asked me who I was. They casually thanked me for my service; illustrating the fact that these women realize that they are truly blessed to be receiving, safety, assistance, and protection from their abuser. It also showed me the importance of my volunteer work and the shelter itself. These shelters serve as a safe haven for those individuals that are being abused by a spouse. Living at such a shelter is the first step for these women to remove themselves from the horrible cycle of domestic violence.
Early on in the beginning of the semester we were introduced to an article about understanding a nonprofit organization. According to Wolf, “A nonprofit organization is neither in the profit sector nor in the public sector but sits somewhere between the two. This position allows the nonprofit great flexibility in its operation but also requires great skill in its management.” This statement is exemplified at the domestic violence shelter and is clearly evident through the set-up and function of the shelter. The organization does not function solely to garner a profit, nor is it absolutely open to every member of the public; the shelter specifically helps female victims of domestic violence by providing them with shelter and betterment services through the funds they raise and receive (subsidies, grants, etc.). Therefore, the organization must earn money just in a different light, and they must serve the public just a specific victimized portion of it.
The article goes on to say that, “Although both profit-making and nonprofit organizations engage in planning, budgeting, accounting, and marketing; although both have to contend with issues of governance, personnel, and information management; and although both have to raise money from time to time, these activities are carried out in markedly different ways,” which is truly evident at the shelter. For example, the shelter must conduct marketing, but it is done in a more secretive and strategic manner. They can not blatantly say where they are located; they have to be cautious as to where and to whom they pass their literature out to; and in a further attempt to protect their clients they can not be in people’s faces about the services they provide. Their marketing is performed cautiously and tactfully. Furthermore, one can look at how the shelter is run. It serves as the administrative headquarters, as well as the residence for the victims. Victims are given a place to stay, while in the same building employees are busy working at planning, budgeting, accounting, marketing, and management. This creates a managerial challenge for the shelter coordinator. She must be skilled in managing the business portion of the shelter, as well as the service side. To lack or fail in either dimension would be detrimental to the overall success of the operation.