When women experience domestic violence, their situation is often complicated by a variety of other factors. In addition to feeling unsafe in their homes or relationships, they may have concerns for the safety of their children. Childcare can be expensive, and women with uncertainty about their financial independence may not be certain they can afford to live on their own. In many cases, women are also dealing with external problems like addiction. When women in Steuben County make the decision to escape this type of situation, they may struggle to find a safe place that will allow them to remain with their children.
TLC House Indiana (TLC) was established by caring community members to lend a helping hand. TLC is an emergency shelter that offers support for women and children escaping domestic violence. The staff, board, volunteers, and donors have committed to offering a safe place for women fleeing domestic abuse to experience how life will be when they are on their own, but within a structured environment that offers support when they face challenges. TLC collaborates with other nonprofits and businesses to meet the variety of needs these women and children often have. Mada Waldrop, Executive Director of TLC, shared, “Working relationships with other nonprofits are necessary to survive. To get people access to the most important services, we have to work as a community.” Along with other nonprofits, TLC partners with the Bowen Center, and many TLC clients utilize its community outreach program to secure assistance.
TLC house is often addressing multiple issues at any time, and approximately 85-90% of the women who come to TLC are struggling with drug and alcohol addiction as well as domestic violence. At one point, a young woman came to TLC who also had an issue with the law. She was pregnant and needed a safe place to go. TLC helped this woman so she was able to work until her delivery. During her maternity leave, she found a better job to support herself and her child. Waldrop proudly shared that this woman is still clean and sober today, and she has stayed in contact with TLC house since moving out.
In addition to meeting the immediate needs of clients, TLC board members and staff offer art therapy classes, financial literacy assistance, and cooking classes. “Often the very stuff they’re looking for is a little TLC,” said Mary Lou Orn, TLC board president. TLC also works with local temp agencies to find jobs that match client skills and availability, as well as offering transportation. The latter is crucial because only half of the women have cars.
One challenge that remains for the clients at TLC is childcare, as most women at TLC house have at least one child. Although they can receive vouchers to assist with the costs of childcare, often this requires the client to already have a job secured. For those women who need the flexibility to search for a new job, finding a solution that will last beyond their time at TLC is difficult. Yet, the organization recognizes the importance of addressing this concern so they can help break the cycle and allow these children to have a chance at a different future.
Possibly the largest change that TLC hopes to address is in the attitudes of its clients. “I want to pass along that TLC, its board and staff, will love these women until they can love themselves. I hope we can plant a seed so they won’t feel defeated but actually empowered to have a better life,” shared Waldrop. “Our goal is that they see that they have the strength inside themselves, that they are strong emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.”
TLC has been serving women and children who flee domestic violence since November of 2011. One key to their success so far has been cooperation between the board and staff. Waldrop explained, “Our board is amazing. They have such love and support for the residents and their director.” The TLC board also works with Dr. Kelly Trusty each year at their board retreat to refocus their goals and make sure their work is effective. Although they find it challenging to raise the funds that cover operating costs and allow the organization to grow, they feel grateful that the community continues to be supportive of their work. And, when Mada Waldrop and the board encounter difficult days, they are motivated by their many client success stories to carry on with their efforts.