Catholic Charities programs assist victims of domestic abuse

October 29, 2013

HOUSTON — “Elise,” escaping an abusive relationship, ended up homeless without a job, money or support. After living in her car, and later a shelter, for several weeks, she found her way to the Catholic Charities transitional housing program. 

“The shelter and this housing program have saved my life,” Elise said. “For a long time, I was told I wasn’t worth anything by my husband. I believed him and started to feel that I somehow deserved his beatings and verbal abuse. Something inside of me, though, hoped for a better life. Fearing that one day he would kill me, I escaped.”

At Catholic Charities, Elise found safe housing. She also found a new job and had plenty of people to encourage her to improve her life. 
“I am beginning to believe in myself again,” she said. 

Elise, now a former resident of the transitional housing program, is one of numerous success stories of the transitional program at Catholic Charities, now in its 70th year of operation in Galveston-Houston.

With October being Domestic Violence Awareness month, Catholic Charities continues to educate the community about family violence and about the programs available through their agency and its affiliates.

Family violence continues to be a serious problem in Texas. According to Catholic Charities, 102 women were killed in Texas in 2011 as a result of family violence and there were 177,983 reported family violence incidents. 

In the 10 counties of the Archdiocese there were 37,657 reported incidents of family violence, representing 21 percent of all family violence incidents in Texas. 

“It is estimated that one in four women in the U.S. will be victimized by an intimate partner in her lifetime and estimates for dating violence report that as many as one in five high-school teen relationships include physical or sexual violence,” Cynthia Colbert, president of Catholic Charities in Houston, said. 

Catholic Charities helps victims of domestic violence and abuse through counseling services, basic needs assistance and through the transitional housing program. 

“We collaborate closely with front-line domestic violence agencies like the Houston Area Women’s Shelter in Harris County, the Fort Bend County Women’s Center, Resource and Crisis Center of Galveston County and others,” Colbert said. “We join with parishes and others to advocate that violence against women is just unacceptable.”

In the last year, Catholic Charities provided shelter to 146 women and children who lived in The Villa, a complex of 22 apartment units. 
Acting primarily as transitional housing for women and their young children, the Villa also provides services that enable these women to find permanent housing, employment and peace of mind.

While the families live there, the children continue school and women are helped with counseling and with job placement assistance. 
They can stay up to a year in the program, but most average six months.

Another option is Catholic Charities’ Guadalupe Center on the eastern outskirts of downtown Houston, which is aimed solely at providing basic needs for individuals and families in emergency situations. These services include food, short-term rent and utility assistance, job training, case management and counseling. 

Catholic Charities also helps women who are human trafficking victims, refugee women and those undocumented who are too afraid to call authorities because the circumstances that make them uniquely vulnerable. 

Like Elise, they lack support, but they also live in fear of deportation and don’t understand their rights or available assistance.

“Ana” didn’t call 911 to report the violence her husband perpetrated against her, or seek medical treatment for her injuries that included a broken bone, because her husband convinced her that if anyone learned she was in the U.S., the police would arrest her and take her children from her. 

Just like Elise, Ana escaped and is now a former client of Catholic Charities’ Cabrini Center for Immigrant Legal Assistance. In addition, Ana now has legal permanent residency.

For more information or if someone is experiencing domestic violence, trained advocates are available to take calls toll free at any time through the hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).