Get Involved: Lydias House
The dedicated staff and volunteers at this local nonprofit help women and their children transform their lives in the wake of domestic violence.
Last year alone, nearly 20,000 women in St. Louis received help from a local domestic violence program. And with harrowing statistics that say that one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, these programs are vitally necessary to help women and their children escape their abusers and get the medical, legal and other resources they need. Most emergency domestic violence shelters provide 30 to 90 days of safety for women and children, which is often not enough time for families to secure a safe, permanent living solution.
A Home to Heal
In 1994, four St. Louis women recognized the need for longer-term, transitional housing for women suffering abuse, and a year later, Lydia’s House was formally established as a 501(c)(3) not-for profit. “We offer women and their children safe, confidentially located and fully furnished apartments that they can choose to live in for up to two years,” says Lisa Weingarth, Development Director at Lydia’s House. “We also surround our women and children with options for services, including personal advocacy, support groups, spiritual support, economic literacy, community and family activities and access to community resources.”
This year, the organization commemorates its 15-year anniversary. Over the years, Lydia’s House has grown from a duplex apartment building with the capacity to serve two families to 35 apartment units that can serve 35 women and up to 70 children at any given time. “During the past 15 years, we have helped more than 450 survivors of domestic violence to rebuild their lives,” says Weingarth. “Eighty-five percent of the women completing the program leave having secured independent, affordable housing and self-sustaining employment.”
Each day at Lydia’s House, Women’s and Children’s Advocates help survivors with challenges such as locating housing, acquiring education or job training, finding employment, obtaining an order of protection, securing a divorce, establishing custody arrangements or immigration status, accessing health-care needs and maintaining personal safety.
“Our staff and speakers from other agencies also teach life skills classes that address health, relaxation, budgeting and money management, spirituality, recreation, arts and crafts,” says Weingarth. Children’s programming includes preschool and a four-day after-school program where youngsters have access to computers, tutors and homework help. Children’s Advocates assist mothers with obtaining the necessary records to enroll their children in new schools, locating affordable day care and exploring sources of support for children with special needs. The Lydia’s House staff also provides educational, cultural and recreational activities for children during school and summer breaks.
Help Lydia’s House by organizing a donation drive for items on the organization’s Wish List or hold an event to benefit the organization at your home or workplace. Or, as Weingarth suggests, consider hosting a dinner party at your home and requesting that friends make a donation to Lydia’s House as a part of your party.
“We are fortunate to have a wide variety of volunteers ranging from individuals who assist with the after-school program and child care, fundraising, community outreach and board membership, to those who clean and decorate apartments, do yard work and gardening, make repairs or complement the Lydia’s House staff by providing music, arts, writing and photography classes,” says Weingarth.
“Some people think that our work here must be dreary, but really, it is quite the contrary,” says Weingarth. “The women that live at Lydia’s House work very hard to rebuild their shattered lives, and I feel blessed to work among the transformation, the metamorphosis, that occurs here at Lydia’s House every day.”
For more information on how you can get involved with Lydia’s House, log on to lydiashouse.org.
Photo credit: Photos by Audrey Sharp; Additional photos courtesy of Lydias House