Vt. domestic violence shelter marks 20 years

Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 4:19 PM EST
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ST. ALBANS, Vt. (WCAX) - For the past two decades, the organization Voices Against Violence has been giving victims of domestic violence in Franklin and Grand Isle Counties a place to stay.

“We don’t expect it, but we have people come up to us and tell us how much we’ve -- the work that they have done with us -- has been so beneficial to their safety or their empowerment,” said the group’s Shannon Mcmahon.

In 2002 the nonprofit purchased what would be called Laurie’s House, named after a woman who died at the hands of her partner. The shelter is a safe haven for families going through abusive situations.

The group’s director, Kristin Lukens, read a letter they received from a former victim that explained their impact. “‘I just wanted to say thank you for all that you have done for me and my family. The programs and services you provide to women and families are awesome. You help me to realize that I am special, smart, talented, and strong.’”

Since 2002 they have housed over 1,200. And during the pandemic, average stays became longer, with some residents seeking shelter for over 100 days. Combined with the state’s housing crisis, officials say Laurie’s House has filled a major void in ensuring these victims have a place to stay. “We know that domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness for families. The housing stock is so low here, the availability is just not there. We see people staying longer in our shelter which, unfortunately, keeps us from having people move in,” Lukens said.

The group has been able to set families up in hotel rooms when Laurie’s House is full. But even then, sometimes there aren’t enough rooms. That dedication to providing means a lot to community members like Liz Gamache of St. Albans. “I was seeing signs of a really caring and compassionate community; A community that cares about friends and neighbors; People that we know and those that we don’t know in the community that need help. So, it was a really positive sign to me,” Gamache said.

Voices Against Violence is hoping to raise $20,000 in the coming days with a community-giving campaign to continue its work in the community.