- Posted by Sarah Swiston
- On February 8, 2021
- Chicago, chicago metropolitan area, children survivors dv, COVID-19, Domestic Violence, domestic violence agency, domestic violence organization, DV agency, DV safe house, DV shelter, Housing Programs, non-profit, WINGS, WINGS Program
On a cold day in February 2016, WINGS Metro Safe House opened its doors. The goal of the new shelter was to provide a safe and secure environment for families escaping domestic violence. When it opened, WINGS Metro became the first new domestic violence Safe House in Chicago to be opened in over a decade. This month, WINGS Metro recognizes its 5-year Anniversary.
Since its opening, WINGS Metro has provided:
- 70,462 nights of critical emergency shelter
- Served 815 domestic violence survivors, including 410 children
WINGS held a special virtual celebration February 11th, 2021 which participants shared stories and videos to highlight the history and impact of WINGS Metro. View the event here:
Reflecting on this milestone
WINGS spoke to staff who have been at Metro since the shelter first opened:
- Carline, Senior Manager at WINGS Metro;
- Lisa, Family Advocate at WINGS Metro and
- Jose, Bilingual Housing Advocate.
WINGS Metro Beginnings
Lisa: “I’ll never forget the first client who walked through the doors here at Metro – a mother and her six-day old son.
I felt so proud of her for leaving with her tiny baby, and was excited that we would be able to make her safe and provide her with such a beautiful place to start the next chapter of her life.”
Carline: “It was February 14th, Valentine’s Day, and in walked a mom with her newborn son. I remember us all huddled together while she did her intake, offering support and solidarity.
The Metro team spirit was born that day. Staff who were not scheduled to work, came in just to be a part of the opening. My staff’s passion for the work they do continually motivates me. They always go the extra mile beyond what is expected.
One example is during the holidays. Even though the end of the year is an extremely busy time, staff have created Metro traditions which include ornament making and tree trimming.
Another example is Raquel, our Kitchen Coordinator’s home cooked, soulful meals. The aroma of the dining room area gives me the feeling of being hugged.”
Lisa: “The most memorable highlight from the opening for me, was meeting Brenda Sexton’s children and hearing the speech at the ribbon cutting. When I heard them introduced as her children, the water works started.”
Carline: “We’ve done so much that we can be proud of during the last five years, one thing was hiring a male Bilingual Housing Advocate.”
Jose: “I’m happy to be a male staff member at WINGS. I started my role at Metro two months after the grand opening. I’m continually amazed at the strength of the clients who come in here to provide a better life for themselves and their children.”
Carline: “Another thing I’m proud of, was our first male intake in March of 2016. After he was accepted, we were catapulted into receiving calls not only for Illinois residents, but male residents from out of state like NY, MI, IN and more.”
Jose: “It was so important to open a shelter in the Metro area because for a lot of survivors, transportation is a challenge, and having a clean and safe shelter accessible by public transportation makes a huge difference.”
Lisa: “We’ve been able to connect with other agencies in the area and they’ve been so grateful to have our shelter in the neighborhood to provide additional support and resources.”
Carline: “What keeps me going is witnessing guests enhance their life skills, build confidence, become financially independent and most importantly, the ability to see the children have the opportunity to be children.
I remember a mother of five who came to stay at the shelter. Because her family was so big, we gave her our largest room filled with items to keep her and her family comfortable. She asked what she owed us and couldn’t believe the answer was ‘nothing at all’.
She told us she had waited until the last minute to arrive because of the horror stories she’d heard about shelters and had been afraid to expose her children.
Later, she told me that once she had settled into her room, she burst into tears because the safe house was so much better than she could have imagined.”
Lisa: “There is so much to come in the next five years – there are some upgrades that have already started! I hope we are able to keep doing what we do best, which is helping every single client who walks through our doors!”
Jose: “I know that in the next five years we’ll be able to assist more survivors who are experiencing domestic violence.”
Carline: “These five years went by so fast. I have so many ideas for the future. I would love to see a culinary training program where guests can get on-site cooking training with a focus on nutrition, and eventually sit for the SafeServ certification.
But ultimately, I want to see an end to domestic violence. Is that asking too much?”