Off the Beaten Path

A domestic violence refuge suffers a big hit.

By Tara Murtha
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 14 | Posted Feb. 4, 2009

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When transitional reduced-rent housing isn't available, the next step is to call the Office of Supportive Housing, which helps funnel the women into homeless shelters throughout Center City.

That's a problem, says Stutman, because homeless shelters have different objectives and serve a different community than a place dedicated to victims of domestic violence. For example, many shelters require that their residents leave during daylight hours as a way to encourage them to apply for jobs. But since most women fleeing domestic violence have children, it's not practical. There's also a security issue--abusers can more easily locate their victims if they're roaming the streets of the city.

Even when there's nowhere else to go, most women opt to avoid the homeless shelters.

"If they're familiar with the shelter system, they probably don't go," says Stutman.

It's at this point in escape and recovery that staff and experts wistfully admit that many victims, given the choice between dangerous shelters and homelessness, are forced to return to their abusers. Experts estimate that in some regions of the country, one-third of homeless women wound up that way as a result of fleeing domestic violence.

When Price needed help getting it together after escaping with her children, her WAA advocate helped her secure Section 8 housing. Now, she says, that's not even close to a realistic option--the wait list is so backlogged, the Philadelphia Housing Authority is just beginning to review applications from 2001.

The system is so overwhelmed that WAA has been turning away hotline callers because the shelter is maxed out. The smaller county shelters in the surrounding suburbs, where WAA tries to direct callers rather than turn them away, are increasingly full also.

Just when domestic violence is forcing more women and children to flee their homes, it's harder than ever to get help.

Domestic violence results in $3 to $5 billion lost annually in absenteeism, decreased productivity and health and safety costs. City funds may be tight, but if the financial spigot for our only domestic violence shelter is turned off, leaks will inevitably spring elsewhere in the system.

"If you have no case management, and you can't do housing applications and work on life issues, we're just a bed," says Stutman, exasperated. "It causes more problems. Then we're going to have still more homeless people with no resources, so they'll keep revolving through everyone's doors."

It's hard to think of Price as lucky for all she's endured, but compared to women and children who are currently locked in the cycle of domestic violence, she is fortunate.

Sure, she's worried about losing her job because of the budget cuts, but she no longer wakes every day in fear of losing her life. The abuse is behind her. She's married to great guy, she says--they're celebrating their eight-year wedding anniversary this year.

Looking back from a safe distance, she laughs about when they first got together.

"I had to lay the law down. I said, 'Look. I've been through this and this. I'll put up with this, but not this,'" she smiles and shrugs. "He stayed, and I was like, all right!"

Now Price's dream is to open and run a house that will serve as transitional housing for victims of domestic violence, so women like Sasha and all the other families under Price's care can have somewhere to go after leaving the emergency shelter. She drafted a business plan and even has the building picked out already. Now she's saving the $750 it costs to register as a nonprofit.

Asked what would have come of her if she didn't have WAA to help her out when she needed it most, Price's face simmers with indignation. She folds her arms across her chest and says, "I would have gone back."

Note: PW has received many requests from concerned readers who want to help Stephanie fund her project. Stephanie can be reached directly at

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Comments 1 - 14 of 14
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1. Kierra said... on Feb 4, 2009 at 08:48AM

“This is a very touching story, and Stephanie sounds like a wonderful person. I think that it should be a fund set up to assist her in her endeavor to open her own facility.”

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2. Jasmine said... on Feb 4, 2009 at 09:07AM

“Im very much proud of my mother.... And being a young female i know what to and what not to expect from a man.... Love you mom, & cute flick!!!lol”

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3. Alanna said... on Feb 4, 2009 at 10:30AM

“Is there any way to donate to help Ms. Price save up enough to register as a nonprofit? ”

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4. Liz said... on Feb 4, 2009 at 12:34PM

“This story was very touching and real. I have the pleasure of working with Stephanie and she has helps me everyday in anyway she can. We share a lot of laughs and I can count on her to make my day. I am not only proud of Steph, but inspired to do my job better to help all the "Stephanies" out there. Thank you for having the courage to share your story.”

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5. Mom Goldie said... on Feb 4, 2009 at 02:34PM

“Steph I'm proud of you. You are comming into your own since of who you are. We've always known that you, (are) a leader. God put you in this place and now it's time for you to give back with his help. God will help you , he is able. It broke my heart to hear what you had to go through but , I'm so glad that the lord was there to see you through. We know that he will get the Glory. Continue to do unto others as you would have them do unto you and you will continue to be bless. We have always prayed for you and will continue. I love you.(Smile)”

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6. Michael said... on Feb 4, 2009 at 07:03PM

“A nice article really nice oww child that was nice oww child that was nice iight Ya Boi.”

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7. anon said... on Feb 5, 2009 at 04:05AM

“Is there a way readers can help Ms. Price raise the money for her non-profit registration fees? I would gladly make a donation. ”

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8. tara murtha said... on Feb 5, 2009 at 06:02AM

“Please note, we've added Stephanie's email address above ( because so many readers are asking how they can donate to her project. Please email Stephanie directly to get in touch with her. Other readers are discussing organizing a fundraiser... PW will post that info as we get it. Thanks.”

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9. phillygrrl said... on Feb 5, 2009 at 06:42AM

“Thanks for highlighting this story, PW!”

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10. Alicia said... on Feb 5, 2009 at 07:27AM

“Wonderful story! Thank you women for sharing so that other women can be inspired. I hope our communities will continue to learn more about DV and how we each can help women better their lives.”

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11. lenni_lenape said... on Feb 5, 2009 at 08:26AM

“I have a daughter, and I always wondered what I'd do if she got involved with an abusive, obsessive man. Baseball bats was the only thing I could come up with. I admit to being unfamiliar with the legal options an abused woman has, but it seems the law provides little help. It would seem that the sick abuser would face more consequences for his assaults. Besides being subject to arrest for assault, one should be financial assistance to the woman in trying to get her life back together. Why are abused women "our most vulnerable and neglected citizens?" I'll answer my own question. It's the children who are trapped in these dysfunctional relationships that are the most vulnerable and neglected citizens. ”

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12. Concerned woman said... on Feb 6, 2009 at 03:31PM

“Why are these men not in jail? The women who have suffered abuse should be able to be in their own homes safely with access to the support of social services and financial resurces coming form the local, state and federal governments and from the men that have battered them. This is a very serious problem. What can be done to help, to make things better, and to pervent this type of abuse in the first place?”

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13. tara murtha said... on Feb 8, 2009 at 08:26PM

“Yes. DV effects both women and children. That is clear in the article. ”

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14. The Thrill said... on Feb 16, 2009 at 12:19PM

“This is really well done. Spotlights not only the specifics of an unfortunate situation, but a need for the current administration to do more. ”


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