When I was in college, I had a roommate who would wake up at 3 am to watch tennis. No watching replays for her. Who cared if I had a test the next morning? The match was on in Australia! The only thing worse in a teeny room than a tennis-obsessed roommate was a teeny room with a tennis-obsessed roommate who also played trumpet.
Now I’m far from perfect and I’m sure she could tell you some horror stories from the days of living with me, but the point is we were both two privileged, nontraumatized strangers who managed to drive each other crazy in communal living. We had the best opportunities for being able to peacefully coexist and it was a rough year.
Imagine now, that my roommate and I were both fleeing abusive relationships. She has two children under the age of 5. She and I have been living with abusive partners and I grew up in an abusive household. I’ve learned to lie to get what I need to survive and I’ve learned to yell if I want my voice to be heard. She struggles with a substance use disorder. Now imagine that we had to share a room in our emergency shelter. She and I and her two children in a room not much bigger than our freshman dorm. There’s two bathrooms in the entire building for all 25 of us to share and one communal kitchen.
Imagine trying to heal under those circumstances. Imagine trying to move on from an abusive past and face your trauma. Imagine how much easier it might seem to just give up and go back home. Imagine how difficult it would be to take the time to invest in your own mental health and healing.
For many of our clients, they don’t have to imagine. This is our reality. Our shelter, while it provides incredibly important and necessary emergency care, is still set up for just that: an emergency. It isn’t designed to be a place of healing and wholeness. Our staff have done so much with the limited budget we have, but we know there is so much more to do.
This year on May 3, Give DeKalb County is hosting the 5th annual community fundraiser for DeKalb nonprofits. Please consider visiting www.givedekalbcounty.org on May 3 and make a life-saving donation. Your donations ensure survivors continue to have access to emergency shelter, counseling, and advocacy, but also give us the flexibility to invest in projects to improve the emergency care we provide and ensure every survivor is given every chance to not only survive, but thrive.