SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Harmony House is currently at capacity, having to turn people down because there is simply not enough room for them.
“We’ve always had a problem with domestic violence in our area,” Harmony House Executive Director Lisa Farmer said. “That hasn’t changed.”
Harmony House is the only domestic violence shelter in Springfield. It started to see an increase in survivors looking for shelter recently.
“Initially when we as a country and communities were locked down, there was a lot of fear that victims were now trapped with their abuser because they weren’t able to go to work or maybe they lost their job,” Farmer said. “Individuals who were maybe isolated with their abuser are now going back to work or they’re able to get out and about a little more so they’re able to reach out for help.”
Harmony House gets 6 to 7 calls a day asking if it has open beds. Originally, each room housed four people. Now, it’s down to one person per room.
“It’s very unusual for us to have a bed that’s open for more than a day or two. Most of the time they’re not even open for a day or two.”
If survivors are unable to seek shelter, there are many safety planning tips they can use.
“Maybe you can have a code word you can set up with them when you call and say ‘I really want some pineapple tonight.’ They know, hey, my friend is in danger or whatever you have discussed,” Farmer said. “If you can get some of your personal documents together like IDs, important papers that you can keep with a trusted friend or family member so when you do leave you have access to them. When you do leave, maybe you can set aside a little bit of money, so you’re ready to leave safely and got some resources.”
Farmer said it’s also important to know how to de-escalate a potential violent situation.
“If you see a situation escalate in your household, stay out of rooms that have things that can be used as weapons by your abuser,” Farmer said.
For both the Victim Center and Harmony House, safety is a big priority.
“The number one question we ask someone when they call the victim center is are you safe,” Bartel said. “After that question is answered, depending on what degree they might be at risk for a fatal situation. We’re really looking at holistically what kind of safety plan can we help the survivor create.”
The Victim Center has seen a 24 percent increase in call volume with most survivors looking for shelter. But housing after shelter can be difficult to find.
“The housing once people leave shelter is really one of the biggest stumbling blocks,” Farmer said. “People stay in shelter longer than they need to be here because we can’t get them out of permanent housing that is affordable and safe.”
Most people stay around 50 days at Harmony House. In 2019 and 2020, most were staying 47 days. The main issue is finding affordable housing for people today.
“Rent in our local market and every market has skyrocketed,” Farmer said. “The housing prices have gone up. While we were able to help individuals find rental units for 550 or 650 dollars a month, those may not be available anymore.
After a survivor leaves a shelter, they tend to go to Transitional Housing. This helps smooth the transition between a shelter and a long term residence.
“Transitional housing I think is always a really needed a valuable resource that perhaps we don’t have enough of in our community,” Bartel said. “This is affordable housing that would help transition between shelter and a long term residence of some sort.”
The main message agencies want to let survivors know is help is still available even if shelters are full.
“There are resources out there for people to navigate toward healing, and deal with the trauma that they’re experiencing because these things do not just go away on their own,” Bartel said. These are real things that people struggle with sometimes for the rest of their lives.”
“Even if we don’t have a bed available we can help them with safety planning,” Farmer said. “We can help them talk about ways to try to stay safe while still living in that and make a safe plan to leave the situation.”
Agencies want survivors to feel they have options when it comes to helping.
Making sure to let survivors know they’re not alone.
“A lot of over survivors who have gone before you have been successful,” Farmer said. “Let us help you. You can do it. You don’t have to live your life this way.”
The Harmony House suggest people who look are looking for shelter to call 417-864-7233 every day and see if there is a bed available. The Victim Center responds to calls regarding Sexual Violence, Domestic Violence, Child Abuse, and other situations at 417-864-SAFE (7233). All services at Harmony House and the Victim Center are free.