The family left with three diapers, one bottle and the clothes on their backs to escape abuse from another family member.
With nowhere to go, the parents turned to the Franklin County Council on Family Abuse.
The council paid for a hotel room and eventually moved them to its domestic violence safe house.
The house is divided into three apartments at an undisclosed location and provides temporary housing for families in need of a safe place to stay.
This is the first time a male is living in the safe house, says Cindy Howard, caseworker for the council. The man, his fiancée and their 7-month-old boy left their home because another family member was abusing their baby.
“A lot of times they have to leave immediately, and they leave with just the clothes on their back,” Cindy said about domestic violence victims.
To help the family find clothes, food, diapers and other necessities, the council reached out to the community.
Howard’s daughter, Keeley, volunteer coordinator for the council, asked her son’s day care, Bridgeport Early Learning Center, to send an email asking for donations.
The response was tremendous.
The day care sent the email within minutes. From there, it was forwarded to an estimated 1,000, said day care owner Terri Smith.
“We did not expect the turnout that we got from this,” Keeley Howard said. “I felt like if I asked them, they would help. They’re just an awesome day care.”
The family received clothes, shoes, diapers, wipes, formula, bath items, crib blankets, stuffed animals, towels and toys, among other things. Though the council only asked for used items, it received new things as well.
“We got everything,” Keeley Howard said. “The child needs nothing else.”
It was the first time the council sent out requests for donations, but Cindy Howard said they would do it again if the need arose.
“This is the first time that I have ever seen a response from so many different agencies, ethnic backgrounds and financial backgrounds,” she said.
She said one woman came in saying she only had $10 for the rest of the month, but she saw the email and wanted to help. She spent her last $10 on a pack of diapers for the family.
“This was the biggest outpour that we’ve had,” Smith said. “It was nice to see that people do care about one another.”
Since April 2011, the safe house has provided shelter for 10 families, Cindy Howard said. The council will also put families in hotels for short-term needs. In 2011, the council provided a place for 45 adult women and 21 children through the safe house or in hotels.
Cindy Howard says the average family stay in the safe house is about a month, but the time varies for each family depending on their needs and goals.
Families are subject to random drug tests, cannot have contact with the abuser and must try to find a job. They can’t disclose the location of the house or use alcohol or drugs. There’s a curfew and they must sign in and out.
Cindy Howard also helps them get their GED if they don’t have a high school diploma.
Some families have left the house without warning, and some people have been turned away because the house is already full.
The toughest part of her job is seeing victims return to their abusers, thinking things will change, she said, explaining that at least 50 percent who return to their abusers end up calling the council again.
“It’s hard to cut the cycle because if they don’t want to help themselves, then you’re not going to get through to them,” Keeley Howard said.
“They have to want it, more than you do.”
HOW TO HELP
To contact the Council on Family Abuse, call the hotline at 229-9762 or caseworker at 229-7027.
To volunteer or donate to the council, call 229-6116.