The MCSA Domestic Violence Shelter in Muscatine has sat unassumingly blending into its neighborhood for almost 20 years.
February marked two years since the home came under the direction of MCSA. Prior to the transition, the home was under the umbrella of Family Resources. While under MCSA, the home is run and located separately from the homeless shelter and their programs. The house itself is owned outright by the Welfare Association.
To the naked eye, the home looks like any other from the outside. Upon closer inspection, passersby may begin to notice subtle changes. The house has been renovated for the safety of those inside and now includes cameras that cover every angle of the exterior, as well as comprehensive alarm and lock systems.
The house is staffed 24 hours a day to help ensure the safety of those who call the address home, even temporarily.
Once inside the large home, it is easy to forget the precautions taken on the outside. The home boasts a cozy, welcoming environment that includes a family-style dining room with walls lined with toys and a living room with comfortable couches.
Each of the spacious three bedrooms is equipped with a combination of bunk beds and single beds. Pack-and-Plays and cribs are available to families with smaller children. In total, 15-18 people can stay in the home at any given time.
The home is a unique blend of independent and communal living. Residents are encouraged to provide food for themselves and their children, though if they are unable, food is provided. Residents are each assigned daily chores such as cleaning and dishes, and are responsible for tidying up after themselves.
Shelter Coordinator Judy Yates says the women are typically coming from a power struggle situation and many times need to feel empowered. The women are responsible for keeping their own schedule and adhering to the house rules, but experience freedom within the home.
Yates says the women are commonly told, “We come to work in your home; you don’t live in our work space.” She believes this level of independence helps the women in the healing process.
Upon arrival, the women in the shelter meet with the worker on duty to go over house rules, as well as address and safety and security concerns.
Needs of the families are assessed. The home keeps a supply of toiletries and hygiene products as well as clothing, including pajamas in every size. Mothers and their children are encouraged to take what they need.
Yates explains, “Sometimes the women who come here have nothing. They may have had to leave it all behind. We want them to feel safe and cared for. If the kids need more clothes, they can take them.” All items provided to the families become the property of the families, who are able to take them when they leave.
In addition, the shelter stocks school supplies for children, backpacks, and toys. Each of these items become the property of the child.
Each resident meets with staff to set goals and benchmarks that they work towards during their 90-day stay. The goals are set individually and are not standardized.
The shelter provides a safe place for women who have left violent and abusive relationships, along with their children up to age 18.
In 2016, the shelter offered housing to over 61 women and children. Yates reports that over 53 women and 55 children received approval to come to the shelter but did not arrive. She explains that this is common, as statistically a victim will make plans to leave their environment seven to ten times before successfully leaving for good. In all, 1345 shelter nights were provided.
In addition to the physical location, the shelter runs a 24-hour crisis hotline. In 2016, 389 calls were recorded coming into the hotline. Among those calls, seven were to report sexual assault and seek assistance. The crisis hotline can be reached at (563) 263-8080.
The shelter receives no state or federal funding, but instead is funded through donations, grants, and the United Way of Muscatine.
MCSA and the domestic violence shelter host an annual fundraiser at Geneva Golf and Country Club in Muscatine. This year will be the 15th annual event and will include live and silent auctions, 50/50 raffle, and door prizes in addition to other features. The event is Saturday, April 8 from 6:00-9:30 p.m. Registration deadline is Friday, March 31. For more information, contact MCSA at (563) 264-3278.