In 2013, Sandy Miller and her two young daughters came to us for help with an extremely violent domestic situation. Sandy chose not to stay in our Shelter because the overcrowded, dormitory-like facility was noisy and lacked privacy. She left to take her children to a hotel, but stopped at home first for their things. All three of them were shot and killed by her abusive husband.
Their tragic story was the inspiration for building the One SAFE Place Sierra Center. Reflecting on our second year of life changing services at the Sierra Center, here is just one of the many success stories you have helped make happen…
Katie had been with us at our old Shelter twice, but never stayed more than a week. Her two boys, John (8) and Michael (4) had trouble with the noise and were fearful of the strangers they shared space with in the dormitory style setting. The boys were shy, stayed to themselves, and were often found hiding in the playroom. Both times, Katie gave in and returned home, hoping things would get better.
Katie came to the Sierra Center a month after our new Residence opened. This time, Katie was determined to get out of her violent situation. During a counseling session with one of our Partner agencies, she opened up about how bad the abuse had become. Her husband had thrown her across the room and threatened her with a gun. She was petrified that he was going to hurt one of the boys. When she begged him to stop, he shot the family dog right in front of them. He stormed out later that night, and Katie grabbed the kids and fled.
John and Michael were dealing with intense trauma and were immediately placed in regular therapy sessions. Because of the recent expansion of our Children’s Program, we were able to assign a Children’s Case Manager to coordinate services. The family had a safe place to heal in our new Residence with a private room, private bath, and doors that locked. The boys opened up a little more when one of our advocates started bringing in her licensed therapy dog. Michael, who talked the least around people, would stroke the dog and speak to her quietly.
Katie and her family were able to extend their stay with us for three months. During that time she filed a restraining order, went to court accompanied by an OSP advocate, found a job, and worked on building a new life. The change in both boys became noticeable over time. They began to feel safer and played with other children in Residence. After a while, with help, the family was able to move into an apartment of their own.
When their Case Manager paid a visit to Katie and the boys. Michael ran from the bedroom with a small puppy in his arms to show her. She held back tears when he spontaneously gave her a hug, whispered “thank you,” and ran off to play in his new home.