Written by David Shivers
Albany, Ga –
Women and their children in southwest Georgia seeking refuge from an abusive husband or boyfriend have a place to which to turn for help: Albany’s Liberty House.
For more than three decades, this nonprofit agency has provided – in addition to emergency shelter – comprehensive services for domestic violence victims and their children, families and friends, as well as referral services for perpetrators of abuse seeking to change their violent behavior patterns.Silke Deeley, executive director of Liberty House since 2003, spoke to the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County on January 14 about the organization and the services it provides. She noted that people have a limited impression of what Liberty House does.
Liberty House can provide emergency shelter for women and their children at a site the location of which is kept confidential for security reasons, she said, but services go well beyond immediate sanctuary. In order for women to permanently escape an abuse situation, the process also involves working toward independence.
“Part of our job is to advocate for the women and children we serve,” Deeley said. This includes legal and financial assistance as well as relocation help to other areas in Georgia or even out-of-state if needed. Liberty House is part of a statewide collaboration of domestic violence services.
In fact, Deeley said, “We do safety plans for everyone we see” even if they’re seen for no more than 10 minutes.
Liberty House’s service area encompasses 17 counties in the region (also including Baker, Calhoun, Lee, and Terrell). Approximately 250 women and children were served over the past year and the emergency shelter can accommodate about 21 people at a time. (The agency also serves men who are domestic violence victims, but they are not housed at the shelter, which is for only women and children.)
Also, Deeley added, “We work very hard to make social changes in the community.” This includes working with law enforcement in recognizing and handling domestic violence cases. Stress and substance abuse also often enter into the domestic abuse equation, so Liberty House also partners in those areas. The overall goal is to raise awareness, strengthen policies, and improve coordination to support survivors and end violence.
There are also programs in place focusing on teen dating violence.
Deeley said there are numerous opportunities for volunteers at Liberty House. While anyone dealing directly with domestic-abuse victims has to meet more stringent criteria such as background checks, other needs include maintenance or providing meals and supplies.
According to Liberty House’s website, its funding comes from federal and state grants, United Way, foundations, churches, and private contributors.