HELP FOR VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC ABUSE
Crisis Line 1-800-649-1092
"Dedicated to breaking the cycle of abuse."
Some employees of Southeast Mississippi Legal Services first became aware of the existence of domestic violence in our geographic area after receiving numerous calls from victims of abuse seeking assistance. The year prior to the opening of the Domestic Abuse Family Shelter, Inc. (DAFS), more than 500 victims made contact with Southeast Mississippi Legal Services. Without the existence of a shelter, our community faced the problem of providing adequate services for victims of domestic violence. Our area did not offer another shelter facility or crisis line for persons seeking refuge and assistance.
Through the efforts of Southeast Mississippi Legal Service employees, local attorneys, area ministers, and other interested community members, a Board of Directors was created in order to pursue the vision of providing services for our community. On March 17, 1983, the Domestic Abuse Family Shelter, Inc. was incorporated as a private, non-profit corporation. In May of 1984, the use of a shelter facility located in Laurel, Mississippi was donated. Extensive renovation work was done and DAFS began operation on July 23, 1984 to serve the victims of domestic violence in Mississippi High Patrol District 7, which includes Covington, Forrest, Greene, Jasper, Jefferson Davis, Jones, Lamar, Marion, Perry, Smith, and Wayne Counties.
At this time, the services provided were 24-hour temporary shelter, 24-hour crisis line, crisis counseling, referrals, transportation, and personal hygiene articles. In an effort to more effectively meet the needs of victims in our service area, DAFS expanded its services and purchased a larger facility in September of 1986. The purchase of this facility was made possible, in part, through a yearly fund-raiser to benefit the shelter, which was begun by WDAM-TV and Dixie Women Golf Association, and partly by the Family Violence Prevention Grant. Funding was also obtained from the United Way of Southeast Mississippi and the United Way of the Pine Belt Region.
The expansion included the addition of an adult counselor, a childcare worker, and 24-hour shelter staff coverage. The original use of the donated facility was retained and houses a non-residential counseling program, childcare, and administrative offices.
The fundraiser, named “Sherrye Shell Memorial Golf Classic,” was held annually in Laurel for 18 years. Sherrye Shell was a local attorney, very active in defending women’s rights, and a founding member of DAFS. She was tragically killed in a diving accident a couple of months before the first golf tournament. It was a unanimous decision to name the tournament in her honor.
The next few years would see increased funding from the Victim’s Assistance Grant, the Victims of Crime Assistance Grant, the Mississippi State Department of Health Domestic Violence Fund, the Emergency Shelter Grant, and monies from our counties and the cities of Laurel and Hattiesburg.
In August of 1992, DAFS again expanded its program, hiring a child’s counselor who could offer a complete counseling program for children. In October of 1992, DAFS was able to add educational groups for shelter and non-residential children in an effort to address the needs of the children.
Also, in October of 1992, DAFS was donated the use of a house in Laurel to be used as a transitional house. Extensive renovations were made to the first floor and the house was in use soon after. In the summer of 1993, DAFS was deeded a house in Hattiesburg by the Southeast Mississippi Medical Alliance. Extensive renovations were made to this house and it was operated as a transitional house until December of 1997.
In December of 1994, DAFS re-structured its organization to better reflect the workings of an agency, rather than just a shelter. A full-time Aftercare Case Manager was hired to work with clients after they left the shelter. A Clinical Coordinator position was created to better serve victims and abusers by offering counseling, clinical supervision, training, and supervision of the batterer’s program.
In 1995, the batterer’s program (Domestic Violence Intervention Program) for men was set in place and made available to judges in the 11 county area, as well as on a volunteer basis. A group was set in place for women in February of 1999. In the spring of 1995, William Carey College donated the use of office space in Hattiesburg for counseling, training, and the batterer’s program. That month, a part-time office manager was hired as well.
In July of 1996, through funding from the STOP Violence Against Women Grant, a Victim Advocate was hired to assist victims through the court process in Jones, Smith, and Jasper Counties. In 1997, that area was expanded to include Covington and Wayne counties. At the present time, the program is in Jefferson Davis, Covington, Smith, Jasper, Wayne, Jones, Lamar, Forrest, and Marion Counties. This was largely made possible because of the cities of Laurel and Hattiesburg for writing their own grants for Victim Advocates in their courts.
In February of 1997, due to receiving additional monies from the Family Violence Prevention Grant, DAFS produced a training manual for law enforcement, judges, and clerks. For a year, DAFS’ staff traveled to all eleven counties, providing training to law enforcement agencies, judges and clerks.
In July of 1997, DAFS’ Board of Directors formed a Hattiesburg Advisory Committee to assist in turning the Hattiesburg Transitional House into an emergency shelter. After much hard work, and with the assistance of the STOP Violence Against Women Grant, Family Violence Prevention Grant, and United Way of Southeast Mississippi, DAFS was able to hire a Shelter Manager and two Residential Workers. Volunteers were recruited and trained to fill in the gaps for shift work. The Hattiesburg Shelter opened on January 2, 1998, as a full-service emergency shelter under DAFS.
Additional funding for this project was received by the STOP Violence Against Women Grant for equipment and operating expenses. In July of 1999, DAFS received additional funding from the Victims of Crime Assistance Grant and the Family Violence Prevention Grant to provide 24-hour staff coverage at the Hattiesburg Shelter. In the year, 2000, a child care position was added to the Hattiesburg Shelter through the Family Violence Prevention Grant.
In 2004, DAFS began extensive strategic planning, which resulted in a comprehensive policy and procedure manual, a new mission statement, new goals and objectives for the agency. From this planning, outreach was identified as a primary issue, resulting in the creation of an Outreach/Educational Coordinator position. Also in 2004, DAFS celebrated 20 years of service to its communities.
Following the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina, both shelters required repairs, as well as the office. Through funding from the Avon Foundation, the STOP Violence Against Women Grant, and, the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and United Way of Southeast Mississippi, all repairs were completed. Services continued throughout and after the storm. In 2006, the first Outreach/Education Coordinator was hired to provide awareness and education in the 11-county service area. This position began as a part-time position and became full-time in February.
DAFS is the only agency in the aforementioned eleven counties providing comprehensive services to victims of domestic violence, their children, and abusers. From the beginning, DAFS has enjoyed overwhelming support from churches, businesses, civic clubs, and schools, which provide money, goods, and volunteer services.
SHELTER AT THE SHED Oct. 24 2010 @ The Shed Downtown Hattiesburg