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Shelter celebrates 40 years of helping victims


Last updated 10/23/2019 at 2:47pm | View PDF

If you were worried a friend or family member was suffering from domestic abuse, would you know the signs to look for? Would you know where she could turn for help?

If you know Hinsdale’s Bana Atassi, the answer to those questions is probably yes. Atassi is a five-year member of the board of Pillars Community Health, a nonprofit organization that offers a variety of services, including shelter and other support for domestic violence survivors.

Atassi said she tries to remind people who live in town that affluence doesn’t protect people from problems like domestic violence.

“This is something that doesn’t know any social limit,” she said. “Even in Hinsdale, it’s there. There is no escape from these problems.”

While most people think of abuse in terms of physical violence, it can take many forms, she noted.

“Sometimes it’s so subtle that the person who is having it does not think that they are under that (situation) until it is a little bit too late,” she said. “Before it gets too escalated, it’s nice to see how you can ask for help.”

Earlier this month, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Pillars celebrated the 40th anniversary of its domestic violence shelter, the Constance Morris House.

The shelter first opened in Brookfield in 1979 and moved to its current location (which is not disclosed to keep residents safe) in the late 1980s. The shelter can house up to 20 women and their children.

“We can be really full to overflowing at times,” said Lynn Siegel, senior vice president of domestic violence services for Pillars. “It really varies. Some of it has to do with weather and when people are willing to leave.”

The shelter offers victims an initial 30-day emergency stay. Women who are developing a service plan and working toward it are able to extend that stay to three months.

“We try to help people get into transitional housing programs or more permanent housing, but it’s hard, because there are not that many of those,” Siegel said.

The situations that bring women to the shelter have not changed much over the years, she said. But making a new start seems to have become more difficult.

“It’s harder to find someplace that’s affordable to go once you leave a shelter. It’s harder to find a job. That was always true but it seems it’s more true now,” she said.

To offer support beyond housing, Pillars offers a confidential 24-hour hotline, crisis intervention, individual and group counseling, legal and medical advocacy and community education and prevention. All services are provided at no cost.

Domestic violence is a chronic issue, Siegel noted, and it takes time and support to heal and move on.

“It’s something families live with for months and months or years and years,” she said. “It’s a whole new way of life for people who have been living with it for a long time.”

Atassi encouraged fellow Hinsdaleans to do what they can to support the organization by contributing their financial resources or their time.

“If you feel that you are empowered enough to offer help, we can use all the help — financial help, emotional support, professional help. Everything adds up,” Atassi said. “We are an organization in your backyard. We need all your help.”

She and Siegel also hope residents will remember Pillars is a resource for anyone struggling with domestic violence.

“We are here to educate you if you see any signs personally or with friends and family,” Atassi said. “Ask for help. Please get educated.”

— Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected]

Author Bio

Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 630-323-4422, ext. 104


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