Hope House has served LS since 2002. Here's how it's evolving to protect survivors.
Hope House has served LS since 2002. Here’s how it’s evolving to protect survivors
By Janice Phelan, Special to the Journal
The Kansas City Star
Since opening its first domestic-violence shelter 40 years ago, Hope House has helped well over 100,000 survivors find refuge and freedom from abuse.
“Hope House gave me and my daughters back hope, gave us support and gave us our life back,” shared one survivor, who asked not to be named to protect her safety.
The organization started in January 1983 with one shelter in Independence. The Lee’s Summit shelter opened its doors in 2002.
“Since we started the first shelter in Independence, we learned very quickly that a shelter in and of itself does not fully address the needs of survivors,” said Mary Anne Metheny, Hope House’s chief executive officer.
The organization emphasizes three pillars: shelter, therapy and outreach. Recently, Hope House has placed additional focus on prevention and community education, she said.
During 2020, the Lee’s Summit shelter was forced to close due to an outbreak of coronavirus among its staff members. Throughout the initial closure, survivors continued to receive housing assistance including placement at other shelters, hotel accommodations and help with necessities such as deposits, first month rent and payment of back bills.
As the focus moved toward transitional and permanent housing, the decision was made to not re-open the Lee’s Summit overnight shelter component, Metheny said. At the Lee’s Summit facility, staff members now work on securing longer-term housing while also providing outreach and prevention.
Previously, Hope House provided 122 beds at the Independence and Lee’s Summit facilities. Since closing the shelter portion in Lee’s Summit, the organization has expanded its hotel program to make up for the loss of beds at the Lee’s Summit campus. Before this transition, the hotel program was used solely for male clients.
This updated model is being used by a number of domestic-violence prevention organizations throughout the nation, Metheny said.
“We still provide emergency beds with each family having their own room,” she added. “We find that they are able to leave the shelter and hotels much faster with this new focus.”
Hope House also advocates for social change to protect an individual’s right to live a life free from abuse. To enact this type of change, it is important to view domestic violence as a community issue, not just a family problem, Metheny said.
“Victim blaming is a huge issue,” she said. “As long as we as a society think it is OK for this type of behavior to happen, we won’t stop it. If we don’t put accountability on the perpetrator, we won’t truly end domestic violence.”
Through this focus on prevention, Metheny said Hope House works with ambassadors who are able to share the facts about domestic violence and how to prevent it. Especially vital are adequate resources to help survivors leave dangerous situations.
One misconception about domestic violence is that leaving the relationship will solve the issue. But the time someone is attempting to leave an abusive relationship, as well as soon after, is actually the most dangerous moment, she said.
Since its launch in January 1983, Hope House has offered a 24-hour hotline, 816-461-HOPE (4673), to assist both survivors and provide advice to individuals wanting to help a loved one.
“Our hotline isn’t just for survivors,” Metheny said. “We have lots and lots of family members and friends who call us on the hotline and ask how they can help someone.”
Another survivor shared, “I’m grateful beyond words for Hope House, the staff and the healthy relationships I’ve made, and most of all for all the help!”
Metheny said the Lee’s Summit community continues to be incredibly supportive of Hope House. “We’ve always felt truly blessed to be in this community.”
Anyone interested in assisting Hope House may visit the website to find information about volunteering, donating money or purchasing requested items via links to Amazon registries for both urgent shelter needs as well as a security wishlist for survivors.
Read more here.
Together we can build a brighter future.
Domestic violence can happen to anyone, no matter their gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, or sexuality. Hope House advocates for survivors, no matter where they are in their journey. Join us in creating a brighter tomorrow for survivors.