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Problems with the shelter system in NYS: A victim's point of view of shelter life

Posted Jun 15 2011 12:00am
Good morning,

My name is Julie Kaous. I have resided at the shelter since 2-8-2011 in the B building. During my time I found that there were many issues regarding "helping" the women staying there.

First, there is no proactive assessment done to see what the victim needs upon arrival (food, clothing etc.) Also, many of us have food stamp cases or PA cases and the abuser is the one with the ebt card and head of household status on the cases. If we are placed with P.A.T.H we go to N.O.V.A, which gets us placement at various shelters. This letter, along with the letter from the shelter we are in, can get our cases transferred to our names and make life easier. What I found is a huge disconnect within the case managers getting these letters to the women timely. This puts the woman's ability to even buy food for their children at a quick stop. As they do not have the ebt card to use, usually the abuser does. Also, having to wait in the wait area for case managers with kids that are hungry and in need of sleep and food for more then 2 hours at times. I found completely unacceptable! why do the children and women have to suffer further at the shelter they are placed at to help them?

I, myself, when I came there had just left a police precinct. We had only the clothes on our backs- no food and no belongings. The shelter gave me a mere 35 dollar voucher for 5 people and no advice as how to go about getting things done. My abuser is very tricky. I always had to be a step ahead of him or I would get plundered by him. He robbed me controlled everything and was always checking on what I was doing. This is what batterers do as you know!

So if that is the case, why doesn't the shelter have in place a way to help, really help, the women with their issues and getting back control and quickly! Everything going on is time sensitive the victim has to be quick and the case workers are fundamental to that process. I was never given any letters advocating early on when me and my kids needed clothes food. I asked, but usually was told to wait and when you have 3 young kids hungry and a staff that thinks that its appropriate to have your hungry children wait over an hour to be seen. I just don't see how this is helping the women. Many, many women return to the batterer because of the way the shelters treat them and do really nothing to help them. This is a tragedy! Who is to blame?

This brings me to the current issue I am dealing with at the shelter. May I just say I had a room mate XXXXXXX who was thrown out by the shelter on lies-she had no place to go no money nothing but was none the less made to leave at night. Her kids had school the next day and now her and her kids are on the street with nothing!

I now have an apartment my ACS caseworker has ordered me beds and I want to move out. However the shelter staff advised me that they would be calling ACS on me if I did? But not only that, I was lied to by XXXXXX and XXXXXX, they told me that I would lose my kids and that it was an ACS mandate that I have beds and a table to move. However, I did speak to ACS and they said there is no such mandate and that they have no problem with me moving to my apartment and sleeping on air mattresses with my kids. But the caseworker Beverly insisted that she would call ACS on me if I left? She even spoke with the ACS worker who said that she knew i had no beds and that she, in fact, had ordered them for me and that there was nothing in any law book or ACS mandate that says I have to have beds. Yet your agency still insists to call ACS on me if I leave.

I spoke to Mrs. XXXX, who stated that she "would do what she has to do" and that I should do what I have to do. Is this how your agency functions? One instant you throw women out who have nothing based on lies. The next you impede another woman who just wants to move forward with her life? I feel this is a gross misjudgement on the director and case managers part also not to mention that the director Mrs. XXXX said she would get me her supervisor but actually hung up the phone on me. I have been living a nightmare for the past 8 years. I thought going to a DV shelter would be a new horizon. But instead I was faced with another cold reality- no one cares and, I still have to fight for what me and my children need. Why? Because the DV shelters lack the human element of empathy and compassion, two forces that are critical to the function of us as a society and to the recovery of battered women.

Julie Kaous
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