Domestic violence levies an enormous toll on women, men and children across the United States. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, more than 12 million people are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner each year. On average, that’s 24 people every minute. In Indiana, 40% of women and 27% of men experience some form of domestic violence in their lifetime, and on a single day in 2014, Indiana domestic violence programs served 1,807 victims, as reported by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
The harmful effects of domestic violence continue long after an incident occurs. In addition to psychological issues that can arise, survivors may find themselves lacking the basic resources they need to rebuild their lives after an abusive relationship. Cassie Mecklenburg, Executive Director of Sheltering Wings in Danville, IN, explains:
“There was a community assessment completed a few years ago, and it identified four primary barriers preventing families from having self-sufficiency, establishing their well-being, and moving forward independently after domestic violence. The barriers are affordable housing, reliable transportation, access to mental health services, and affordable childcare.”
In an effort to address the unmet needs of domestic violence survivors, Cummins Behavioral Health and Sheltering Wings have partnered with RealAmerica Development LLC to build an affordable housing community in Plainfield, IN. The development, known as Haven Homes Apartments, will provide a stable living environment as well as education and advocacy for individuals and families escaping domestic violence. The goal? To help survivors return to independent living and grow their personal role from “victim of domestic violence” to “empowered, thriving member of the community.”
Haven Homes: Affordable Housing Meets Accessible Support
Haven Homes is designed to provide the support services of a domestic violence shelter within a more independent living environment. “As families are transitioning out of Sheltering Wings, they will be able to move into this area and have support services directly available to them,” Mecklenburg says.
The apartment complex will be built near 2601 Stout Heritage Parkway in Plainfield using Rental Housing Tax Credits (RHTC) from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA). It will consist of one two-story and one three-story apartment building, including a total of 52 apartments ranging in size from one-bedroom to three-bedroom. While all of the apartments will be catered toward individuals and families who are escaping domestic violence, a portion of the units will be fully furnished for those who are also struggling with chronic homelessness.
In addition to affordable housing, the complex will include a community center where residents can speak with social workers or healthcare professionals in person or via teleconference. Mecklenburg says, “I kind of explain it as a ‘clubhouse on steroids.’ It’s not only your typical clubhouse, but residents will also have access to case management, support groups, life skills classes, and other services. We know that when we feel like we’re on an island, when we feel like we’re isolated, it’s much more difficult to be engaged in the community and surround ourselves with the resources we need. By having this partnership with Cummins and having these services available to families, we can put those resources right at their fingertips.”
Convenient access the life skills classes is of particular importance, as people who have been in abusive relationships for an extended period of time may not know how to perform some of the basic tasks necessary for day-to-day living. Jessica Hynson, a Clinical Team Lead at Cummins Behavioral Health, explains:
“Depending on what was going on in the home, if someone needs to get out of that situation, they might not know how to pay a bill, how to buy a home, how to rent an apartment, or many other things that we might take for granted because we were taught. But that opportunity was taken away from them. We’ll be able to provide that kind of skills training, as well as trauma therapy for children and adults.”
Construction on Haven Homes is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2020 and should be completed by the summer of 2021. Once the complex is open, it can begin helping individuals and families recover and grow from domestic violence.
As Mecklenburg says, “We’re excited for these families, because what it will do is help take them from the identity of a victim or survivor and move them into the identity of a Quaker, which is the mascot of Plainfield. We want to help them move beyond their past experiences and create a new life for themselves.”
We look forward to sharing more news and updates on Haven Homes as the development moves closer to completion! For now, we recommend watching this video about Domestic Violence Awareness Month with Cassie Mecklenburg and Jessica Hynson!