A quiet playground in the courtyard at Haven House
Haven House volunteers wrap purple ribbons in Rio Rancho
awareness of domestic violence.
Abused women, kids find refuge in Sandoval County
The complex of offices and living quarters in Sandoval County can house no more than 35 adults and kids at a time. It’s been open since 2001, and beds are rarely empty.
“Just coming to the shelter is not easy,” said Executive Director Cosmina Hays. And it’s not easy leaving, either, with some clients finding the transition tough, returning as many as four times, she added.
One woman who stayed with her children longer than most is now trying to settle into life on her own. She said she endured years of abuse before someone else reported it. The officers who arrested her husband took a report but didn’t mention Haven House as a place to go.
Instead, that critical information came from a caseworker assigned by a social-service agency. After a quick intake interview over the phone, she and the kids were packed up and gone.
“Ever since then it’s been like awesome support in everything we’re doing” she told the Signpost. “If you don’t know it’s out there, you’re not going to do anything.”
Over the years, she left multiple times only to return amid promises of better behavior. In truth, she said, the prospect of leaving or finding herself and children in a homeless shelter seemed worse than staying.
“In the house you know what to do,” she continued. “When he’s drinking, how to keep the kids quiet, having dinner ready on time. You have control over that… It’s the comfort of security, knowing what’s going to happen. You really have to fight yourself to get away from that.”
Beyond providing a safe place, protected by a monitored gate, high fence, and razor wire, Haven House offers counseling on domestic violence, help finding work and becoming independent, and a new program on life skills—everything from opening a bank account to dressing for a job interview.
“Power and control, it’s all part of domestic violence,” said Hays, who has been with Haven House for 11 years. “Some of the control is financial. You can’t have a job, so you’re isolated. Some are so totally isolated they store away food.”
Abusers also can be helped to break the cycle of violence through an off-site offender program.
“People make choices. People have a choice to be better,” Hays said. “Some of them are from abusive homes. That’s why we work with children.”
Haven House relies in large part on donations of everyday items like toiletries and housecleaning supplies and even furniture as its clients establish new lives in new places. With a staff of 25 and an annual budget of $784,000 dollars, funded by ongoing grant applications, it also relies on volunteers screened to help with programs and transportation.
Volunteers can number around one hundred in a given year, depending on the size of groups involved in work projects. Staff from what was then the Victoria’s Secret call center in Rio Rancho built the shelter’s playground in 2007, and other local businesses and civic groups provide support.
A 2013 report by the New Mexico Department of Health found Sandoval County ranked fourth in the state for its rate of domestic violence cases and third in the number of incidents reported the previous year with 1,487. Only about half of domestic violence cases are reported, Hays said, adding the previous year Sandoval County’s caseload ranked No. 1.
Police agencies tracked in the statewide DOH survey listed men as the victims in thirty percent of the reported cases.
Victims and their children find Haven House a number of ways: police referrals, the website or phone book, other shelters, hospitals and legal advocates guiding them through the courts. The facility is the only one of its kinds in Sandoval County.
Hays, her staff and volunteers are gearing up for October, which is annually designated Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Late this month volunteers will join the national Purple Ribbon Initiative, remembering the slain victims of domestic violence by attaching purple ribbons along State Route 528 in Rio Rancho.
A children’s fun run/walk is planned for the morning of October 18 at Rio Rancho High School, and the shelter is participating in Rio Rancho Mayor Hull’s barbeque at Haynes Park on October 23.
Haven House is also looking for sponsors for its events. Details on services, events, needed items, and how to donate and volunteer can be found on the website (HavenHouseInc.org) or by calling 896-4869.
Dealing with learning disabilities in children, adults
On September 27, at 2:00 p.m., in the Collins Room, the Placitas Community Library will host Dr. Michael Milone, who will lead an interactive discussion relating to the many ways children and adults with learning disabilities can succeed.
Dr. Milone is a Placitas resident who has been working in the field of learning disabilities for almost fifty years. He’s a nationally recognized research psychologist and award-winning educational writer. Dr. Milone has co-authored or written chapters in textbooks dealing with computers, gifted education, special education, reading management, research on handwriting, and learning styles. He has taught in regular and special education programs at all levels and is fluent in American Sign Language.
In his presentation, Dr. Milone will focus on some behavioral characteristics associated with learning disabilities and how they affect performance in school and other aspects of life. His discussion will cover ways to adapt to and deal with a learning disability, how to support those with a disability, and how family members and friends can support each other. Other topics include: learning disability assessments, activities used in different educational settings, and various learning paths kids can take.
Dr. Milone will welcomes those in attendance to contribute their thoughts and experiences, since he feels there are many paths to success. He firmly believes that feeling hopeful and feeling encouraged is crucial to finding that success.