Sunday, December 5, 2010

More Central Texas abuse shelters full

Updated: Monday, 29 Nov 2010, 10:11 PM CST
Published : Monday, 29 Nov 2010, 8:36 PM CST

AUSTIN (KXAN) - Austin's SafePlace shelter for victims of sexual and domestic abuse is full.

That has counselors putting priority on the most critical calls for help.

It's not that uncommon for SafePlace to be at maximum capacity but something that is different now--is nearby shelters in Bastrop, Hays, Caldwell and Williamson Counties are full as well.

"This has been a rough year all around," said SafePlace Executive Director Julia Spann.

At the SafePlace emergency shelter there are always five to ten families on a waiting list to get in. Spann says Austin's high cost of living and tough economic times have created a difficult situation for the shelter.

"I think the call to the community is we need to create affordable, permanent and transitional housing for people so we can have the options to leave shelters sooner. If somebody can't leave a shelter you can't get the next folks into shelter as a crisis has occurred in their life," said Spann.

At any given time there are 100 to 105 women and children in the emergency shelter. Currently there are 87 kids and 40 adults in transitional housing. That's more than 230 people living on the SafePlace campus right now.

"There's not a lot of resources," she said.

SafePlace counselors must prioritize every call for help.

"We are always going to be giving the highest priority to people who are actively having family violence situations at this time--that are going to be in the greatest danger," said Spann.

Others who haven't experienced recent abuse and can't get into the shelter but still want help can receive safety planning.

"We find that sometimes people have more resources than they realize. When you're in the midst of trauma and life feels like it's falling apart around you, sometimes you just need somebody to help you think through what your alternatives might be," said Spann.

Bottom line, Spann says if you feel threatened call them--they'll get you help. And she urges friends, family and neighbors to take action as well.

"When we see something bad happen call it out. When we see somebody who's been hurt tell them we're worried about them."

Spann says domestic violence doesn't necessarily increase during the holidays, but the holiday stress coupled with economic problems can lead to problems in families where there's a history of abuse.

In Travis County people can call SafePlace's 24-hour hotline at 267-SAFE.

Or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.

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