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Shelter Services Give Mother of Seven New Hope

Courtney Collins
Danielle took her 7 children out of harm's way -- states away -- to find a temporary home at The Family Place.

As local family violence shelters cope with major overcrowding, we introduce you to a survivor who’s living that reality.

Back home, Danielle feared for her life. She tried to leave her verbally and physically abusive husband several times, but always went back when she ran out of money. Her husband managed to find her at a shelter in her home state, so this past May, she packed her seven children in the car and set off for Texas.

Danielle: I’ve been in my marriage for about seven years, and it was just constant abuse, and I started seeing my children behaving the same way. It was time to get away from that.

She chose Texas because her husband doesn’t know anyone here and that made her feel safe. After two days on the road, she showed up at The Family Place in Dallas with seven kids under the age of 15 and little more than the clothes they were wearing.

“By the time I got here, I was a wreck; nervous, scared, angry, frustrated. But since I’ve been here, oh my goodness, it’s been a big change, especially with my case manager; they’ve been so patient with me. And now I’m starting to just relax. My kids are starting to, instead of being on edge because they’re scared, they’re starting to feel comfortable and relax," Danielle said.

Danielle’s Case Manager Margie Heilbronner says once a woman gets to the shelter, it’s about more than just food and a place to sleep. The abused work with counselors to make a list of goals; everything from dental care to a new apartment. They apply for government assistance and often crime victim compensation. They work on job skills, whatever needs to be done to live independently in a community.

Heilbronner: My idea is women have to be physically okay, mentally okay and spiritually okay, so we start there. Because if they’re not ok in all those areas, everything we are trying to do is going to fall apart anyway.

The average stay at the Family Place is 45 days. Those who need more time sometimes transition to apartments on the shelter’s property.

Danielle has been at the shelter for a little over a month. Despite what she’s been through, she smiles easily and is hopeful about the future. Her goals are selfless and simple; things most of us take for granted every day.

“I’m really completely starting over with seven kids, so I’m hoping to have a secure house, I want to be working sooner or later. I want my kids to see that it’s ok to enjoy life," Danielle said.