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North Texas Women's Shelters Shutter During Winter Storm

A maroon lounge chair is covered with insulation that has fallen from the roof and a bookshelf has tipped over onto it. Books and other debris litter the floor.
Genesis Women's Shelter
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Genesis Women's Shelter has closed for the first time in 35 years. The shelter lost power for multiple days, which led to a lack of security and frozen pipes. When the pipes exploded, so did the hopes of staying open.

The cold weather and power outages have affected almost everybody in North Texas. But the effects they’re having on local women’s shelters are devastating.

The Family Place in Dallas has reported that their shelters have suffered “extensive damage.” And earlier this week, their CEO, Paige Flink tweeted that the organization had “123 women and children who are FREEZING!”

SafeHaven Tarrant County — the region’s largest women’s shelter — said cold temps have plagued their organization too.

“We’ve had two hot water heaters burst,” said Kathryn Jacob, SafeHaven’s president. “And we had about 20 over-head sprinklers leak all over the children’s area [at our Fort Worth shelter].”

Jacob said power has returned to the shelter, but that for now, they’ll have to close off access to a section of the facility. Still, despite the issues, SafeHaven is still accepting clients.

“Our hotline and shelter remain open, so people don’t need to worry that they cannot call,” Jacob said. “We’ve had some of the most devastating cases of abuse come through on our hotline this week. Abusers will use anything in the toolbox. So, call if you need help.”

SafeHaven's hotline is (877) 701-7233.

Meanwhile, Dallas’ Genesis Women’s Shelter has closed. The organization, which has been around for 35 years, also sustained structural damage to its emergency shelter and transitional housing.

KERA had the opportunity to interview Genesis CEO Jan Langbein about the damage and the effects the winter storm has had on the organization. Read excerpts from that interview below:

Hady Mawajdeh: Can you start by telling me what happened to your shelters?

Jan Langbein: So, the storm of 2021 has just made itself felt across the state of Texas. And certainly, there are a lot of people in their homes who are having power outages and who can’t get out of their driveways. But I have to tell you that for a domestic violence shelter, a safe place where women and children have come to flee an abusive relationship, it is so much worse.

We have been without power since last Saturday. By Monday morning, our shelter was so cold that we started trying to relocate families to hotels. But there were no hotels available. And so, the best we could do was hunker down and try to stay as warm as possible. We gave out every blanket and every coat we had.

Mawajdeh: Wow. So, was it the lack of electricity that shut you down?

Langbein: Well, here’s the thing — when we don’t have power, we don’t have security. Literally, our locks on the doors weren’t even working. And so, the air was just pushing the doors open. And so, we had no heat, we had no security and we had no way of staying warm. And on Monday night our pipes in the attic froze. So water flooded our entire campus. Our school is ruined. Our electrical room is ruined. And probably seven or eight of our transitional housing apartments are ruined too. We’ve got insulation hanging out from the attic. But by Wednesday morning, we had to start relocating folks into hotels and other safe places.

Jan Langbein is the CEO and founder of Genesis Women's Shelter in Dallas. She's worried that her shelter won't be able to serve domestic violence victims during the pandemic.
Elizabety Myong | KERA News
Jan Langbein leads Genesis Women's Shelter. The shelter had to close for the first time in 35 years, because of structural damage to the building caused by the latest winter storm.

Mawajdeh: Jan, it seems like getting a woman to a shelter like yours is very difficult. And now, because of these issues, you’re having to send them away. What is that like?

Langbein: Absolutely. Hady, that’s what’s breaking my heart. Because here these women have had the courage—– against COVID, against the odds of him tracking her down, against all the odds — to grab her children to come to the shelter… And now, here we are having to relocate her again.

Mawajdeh: They must feel dejected?

Langbein: I think it would be very easy for a woman to say ‘You know what? I’m done. I’m going home. I’m giving up.’ But I hope, I pray that’s not going to be the result but it’s tough. It’s really, really tough. And for a moment, I’m gonna ask you to think about that little 5-year-old child who came to the shelter with their mom. He just wants to go home. He wants to go home to his room where there are lights and heat and food. And there just must be so much pressure on a mother to know that their child just wants things to go back to normal.

Mawajdeh: Jan, I have had the pleasure of meeting members of the Genesis staff in the past. And these folks are extremely passionate and dedicated to what they do. I’m sure they’re just as committed to the mission on weeks like this one?

Langbein: I’ve got to say that I am extremely proud of the staff of Genesis Women’s Shelter and support. About one year ago, when COVID was first appearing in North Texas, I was amazed by the staff that was literally putting their own life, their own health at risk to come down and take care of women who had the courage to leave a violent situation. I’ve just been so impressed … And here we go again.

Mawajdeh: Can you elaborate? What do you mean?

Langbein: We’ve had people who’ve literally slept at the shelter so that they wouldn’t get snowed in. And they did that so that they could serve these women. They stayed where there was no power, no amenities, no nothing! And they did that so they could be on time for their shifts that start at 7:30 AM.

Mawajdeh: Have you been able to come up with a tally for what it’s going to cost you to get back up and running?

Langbein: Yes and no. I’ve been thinking about what needs to get done. We’ve been in touch with our insurer. But it’s going to be a sizeable deductible. And we’ll need to raise funds for all of the stuff that our insurance will not replace. We’ll have to replace all our bedding. We’re going to have to replace all of the kitchenware. We’ll have to replace everything in the school. From our electronic smartboard to our kids' tablets and laptops, we’ll have to replace it all. And it’s going to be a challenge for sure. But you know what? It is not as hard as living with an abusive partner. It’s not as bad as being beaten because dinner is late. All these problems are nothing compared to the abuse these courageous women and children have gone through.

Want to donate to Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support? Check out their Amazon Wishlist or make a monetary donation here.

Got at tip? Email Hady Mawajdeh at hady@KERA.org. You can follow him on Twitter too. Hady’s handle is @HadySauce.

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