A Fresh Start
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a time when advocates join together to raise awareness about domestic violence and encourage communities to take action against it. Volunteers of America-Greater New York (VOA-GNY) supports families escaping domestic violence by providing safe, emergency shelter and comprehensive support that empowers survivors to choose, and prepare for, a life free of violence after leaving the shelter. We are committed to educating the community and encouraging people to better understand myths surrounding the issue and learn the warning signs of domestic violence.
Linda*, 44, never imagined she would one day become homeless. She had worked hard to establish her career in the field of healthcare. She lived in a large house and enjoyed watching her teenage daughter thrive in school.
But life at home was difficult. Over the years, her partner became physically abusive—a situation that grew worse with the onset of the pandemic. Though Linda was an essential worker and never stopped going to work, she was spending more time in close proximity to her partner during evenings and weekends. The uncertainty and stress of the situation caused tensions to rise at home and the abuse intensified.
Linda knew what she had to do, but the decision to abandon everything she knew—everything she had worked so hard to achieve—was difficult. Finally, in June 2020, she picked up her daughter from school and went straight to one of VOA-Greater New York’s emergency shelters for families escaping domestic violence.
At first Linda and her daughter struggled to adjust to life in the shelter where they shared a room with another young woman. “I cried a lot,” Linda explained. “It was all so new.”
She found it difficult to talk about her experience in the shelter’s support group but VOA-Greater New York staff were patient and helped Linda become more comfortable. They also strongly encouraged her to attend therapy. Eventually she agreed.
Little by little, thanks to the tremendous compassion and support shown by VOA-Greater New York staff, Linda began to feel a sense of peace and hope for her future. Staff began to see a positive change in her too.
Linda turned her focus toward obtaining safe, stable housing for herself and her daughter. Although she initially feared she would have to navigate the process alone, Linda’s VOA-Greater New York case manager was right by her side every step of the way, willing to do whatever was necessary to help Linda regain her independence.
One day Linda came across a beautiful two-bedroom apartment for rent. It was clean, within budget and a safe distance from her abuser. But the landlord didn’t want to rent to Linda. He kept asking for more and more documentation to prove she was trustworthy and could pay rent.
Disheartened, Linda felt ready to give up.
Her case manager dropped everything to help Linda obtain all the documents the landlord asked for, even writing a letter of reference advocating for the family. The requests were relentless, but her case manager persisted.
Eventually, that persistence paid off and Linda and her daughter were approved for the apartment.
Linda still drops by the shelter from time to time to pick up her mail and update VOA-Greater New York staff on their progress. Shortly after moving, Linda sent a thank you card to staff, expressing her gratitude for the care they received. VOA-Greater New York staff gave Linda and her daughter hope when they thought there was none and helped put them on the path to a better future.
*Name and image changed for privacy.