Bat­tered women shel­ter set to re­open

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Na­dine Wil­son-Har­ris Staff Re­porter na­dine.wilson­har­ris@glean­erjm.com

WITH MANY of Ja­maica’s bat­tered women un­able to find a safe haven, the non-gov­ern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tion Women’s Inc is close to of­fer­ing a life­line.

The coun­try’s only of­fi­cial shel­ter for bat­tered women, which was op­er­ated by Women’s Inc, is sched­uled to re­open next month with mod­ern com­forts to help vic­tims feel at ease.

The shel­ter, which was closed in Jan­uary for re­fur­bish­ing, has been re­mod­elled, courtesy of the United States Agency for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment (USAID).

For­mer United States Am­bas­sador to Ja­maica Luis Moreno had com­mit­ted to re­mod­elling the cri­sis shel­ter as a part of ef­forts to ad­dress gen­der-based vi­o­lence in the is­land.

Women’s ad­vo­cate and for­mer pres­i­dent of Women’s Inc, Joyce Hewett, said while the shel­ter will still be able to ac­com­mo­date only 12 women and their chil­dren, the space will help with the heal­ing process for those who are vic­tims of do­mes­tic abuse.

The new shel­ter can now be ac­cessed by those us­ing a wheel­chair and is so­lar pow­ered. The kitchen has been con­fig­ured and so, too, has the house mother’s liv­ing area and the din­ing area. More im­por­tant, the shel­ter now has a sound­proof room for coun­selling to guar­an­tee pri­vacy for those who are ad­mit­ted.

“When they come in and they are un­der dis­tress, the first thing you want to pro­vide them with is a com­fort­able, quiet place that they can re­ally start to un­wind and start to heal,” said Hewett.

“If some­one came and they had a wheel­chair, they could not get through our doors, but now they can get through the doors and the bath­room,” added Hewett.

She said de­spite the shel­ter be­ing closed, women who made con­tact with Women’s Inc were still as­sisted. “What has been go­ing on is that the per­son at the cri­sis cen­tre has had al­ter­na­tives. She set up a lit­tle net­work of al­ter­na­tives, so that even dur­ing the pe­riod that we had to be closed to ac­com­mo­date this and to bring us to this level, she was able to pick up the phone when some­body needed a space and call some­one that nor­mally wouldn’t have pro­vided cri­sis shel­ter space,” said Hewett.

“Cri­sis never stops and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence never stops, un­for­tu­nately, so we al­ways have to make sure that we are able to ac­com­mo­date them in some ways.

“With work on the shel­ter now done, Women’s Inc will now turn its fo­cus on es­tab­lish­ing a tran­si­tional house to fa­cil­i­tate the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of abused women.

“Once they leave the shel­ter, for ex­am­ple, where do they go? If they have nowhere to go, they go back to their abu­sive sit­u­a­tion. Our next thing is a tran­si­tional home, so that women can go and stay up to a year or if they need more than a year,” the women’s ad­vo­cate said.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion has al­ready re­ceived a sig­nif­i­cant do­na­tion from the In­ter­na­tional Women’s Fo­rum to as­sist with this pro­ject. Hewett is hop­ing other in­ter­na­tional and lo­cal groups will part­ner with the or­gan­i­sa­tion to make the pro­ject a re­al­ity.

Women’s Inc was founded in 1984 and op­er­ates a cri­sis cen­tre, a cri­sis shel­ter and a 24-hour hot­line which can be

reached at 929-2997.

RI­CARDO MAKYN/STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Joyce Hewett

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