Guardian Shelter sees increases

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 15, 2009

NATCHEZ — Young women in southwest Mississippi are seeking solace from abusive relationships more than ever before — an upsurge Guardian Shelter Director Donna Miller believes is cause for concern.

“A definite increase in our workload is younger women … 19 … 20 years old,” Miller said. “We feel very strongly educating the public is an important part of the services we provide.

“I think we’ll see a decrease by educating the high school and junior high population — teach them about healthy relationships and what they look like. I don’t think they get that early on.”

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The Guardian Shelter will continue its education efforts in 2010 while providing solace for domestic violence victims in an 11-county area. Founded in 1992, the shelter provided food, clothing, transportation, on-site day care, therapeutic services and referrals for housing, medical, dental and legal needs to 90 women and children this year.

Miller said clients are referred to other shelters if they fear an abusive partner will find them, and if clients want to relocate to be near family, the shelter pays for their travel.

Clients also have the option of entering a supportive housing program after their shelter stay. Clients can either stay at one of the shelter’s 25 apartments or find outside housing.

“We provide transportation, and (clients) have access to day care, counseling and education for six months,” Miller said. “We try to help them continue on with a plan to be independent and to be safe.”

Miller said grants, individual contributions and fundraisers keep the shelter afloat. Miller credits the Miss-Lou community for its support despite the economic recession.

“I would have to say this is the first year we really strived to get fundraisers in place,” Miller said. “I have to give the community credit for being generous to us in our fundraising efforts.”

Though the recession has not severely affected the shelter, Miller knows the economy can further strain a relationship and lead to domestic disputes.

“Domestic violence is a part of our world; it’s a part of our society,” Miller said. “The recession creates stress in the home, and adds to the set of circumstances that lead to the severity of the problem.”

In addition to monetary donations, the shelter accepts household items such as bed linens, cookware, televisions, VCRs and personal care items such as diapers and baby wipes.

For more information, call 601-442-0142.