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Every year before her birthday and Christmas, Maria has to retrain her family members: “Don’t send me any packages. They’ll just get returned to you.”
Even furniture delivery is a pain. Maria bought a new bed recently and couldn’t give out her home address to have it delivered. Instead, she carted it home in her truck.
Maria would love to have a housewarming party for work colleagues, but she can’t post an invitation with her address in the lunchroom. She said that people understand.
She’s getting married in May and her partner has joined the program to protect her.
Despite the challenges, Maria is grateful. “This is kind of trite, but I feel safe at home,” she said. “I probably will not want to move from this state because it’s a great program.”
People enroll in Safe at Home with the help of trained advocates who talk with them about safety issues and develop a plan. Sometimes, advocates deem Safe at Home insufficient, Umidon said.
“A better move might be to relocate to another state with other family members and better support,” Umidon said. “Or maybe she goes into a shelter for a while.”
Other times, advocates do not see pressing danger, so they’ll work with the applicant to find more appropriate resources elsewhere.
Most applicants, though, are quickly enrolled and given a P.O. box and “lot” number, moving them one step closer to a life of precious, simple normalcy and stability.
“One mom a few years ago finally settled into transitional housing,” Umidon said. “She had a little apartment and she said, ‘My son slept for the first time through the night. We sat in the kitchen and ate chicken and had the curtains open.’ Another mom told me that her kids played in the yard and weren’t afraid.”
Participants can stay in the program for four years, then must choose whether or not to re-enroll. While most do re-up, Umidon is happy when some don’t for a good reason.
“It’s really cool when a participant calls and says, ‘I think I can withdraw. Is that OK?’ I tell them, Don’t apologize. It’s great to have the service, but it’s even better when they move on.”
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