Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Victims Find Safe Haven at New Quigley Housing

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Victims Find Safe Haven at New Quigley Housing

Article excerpt

A framed cartoon on the hallway wall shows Winnie the Pooh watching a boy pin a tail on a donkey above the words: "Friends make sure you have all your parts."

The picture is especially appropriate in the safe haven of a two-bedroom apartment Linda and her three preschool children now call home, thanks to Quigley House, a shelter for battered women in Clay County. Linda did not want to be identified for fear of her ex-husband finding out where she is.

To help ease clients back into a normal lifestyle after leaving the shelter with only the clothes on their backs, Quigley House recently bought a four-unit apartment building at the northern end of the county.

Linda and her kids, the first tenants, moved in Thursday.

"This is our transitional housing program," said Sharon Youngerman, executive director of the non-profit agency. "After they leave the shelter, a lot of women go back to the abuser. But some want to be on their own so they don't have to deal with the abuse anymore."

After completing a maximum six-week stay at the 42-bed Quigley House, however, many victims of domestic violence have no money, no job and nowhere else to live.

Linda, who went to Quigley House in February after fleeing her ex-husband and years of violent abuse, was lucky. Unemployed and broke, her time ran out at the shelter about the time the apartment building was acquired.

Now, safe and secure in their own apartment and with job prospects in the works, she and her kids have been given a chance to start a new life by Quigley House and a team of volunteers.

"The support system they've provided me has been outstanding," she said, standing in the bedroom shared by her two pre-school children. She also has another child who shares her bedroom. "We've come a long way. For awhile, it was like I was in a big, dark pit. Then it dawned on me that I can only go up."

Individuals donated all the furnishings in the apartment: sofa, chairs, beds, dressers, crib, toys, even a series of Winnie the Pooh prints.

"I feel extremely safe here," Linda said. "For the first time in years I have control of my life instead of somebody else controlling it. Now we have a chance to be truly happy."

The calm, quiet atmosphere in her apartment is the opposite of the hellish life she described at the hands of an alcoholic drug abuser for nine years.

"He threatened to kill me if I ever tried to take our children and leave," Linda said, adding that her ex-husband had become increasingly domineering and watched her every move.

"I couldn't even take the garbage out," she said. "And he always kept one of our children with him because he knew I'd never leave without all three of them."

The violent outbursts began from the beginning of their relationship and escalated in frequency and intensity over the years, she said. …

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