Editor’s note: Names have been changed to protect the identity of family members.
ORLANDO | Jane was forced to leave her home with her three young girls because of domestic abuse. It was a frightening scenario she never planned. Thanks to Hope Place in Daytona Beach and its partnership with Catholic Charities of Central Florida, she found a safe haven and assistance as she tries to build her future.
Fortunately for Jane, within weeks of her arrival, Linda Stanislaw, Catholic Charities licensed mental health counselor, opened for business as a full-time counselor at the shelter. Hope Place provides a fresh start for families with children who have been displaced from their homes, and a safe place for homeless unaccompanied youths who are pursuing an education.
Stanislaw began counseling June 18 at Hope Place, which is operated by Halifax Urban Ministries. As a counselor for nine years at Pathways to Care in Casselberry, a homeless shelter for adults recovering from acute illness or injury, Stanislaw is equipped to assist families in transition.
Having worked only with adults, she said, “The new homeless center that houses families attracted me. All families are important to me as I feel they’re the backbone of our society.” She acknowledged that “providing a home for children presents a challenge for many parents for a variety of reasons. Often, it’s helpful for them to have someone to talk to who can offer hope, support and empowerment as they work toward their goals. At the same time, it enables them to strengthen their family unit.”
Jane said Stanislaw “has been amazing.” “I’ve had so much growth. My anxiety would overcome me to where I couldn’t step out of the door. After you go through domestic violence, you live like a hermit — not on purpose; you just don’t trust people. You look at everybody different.”
A little more than two years ago, Gary Tester, executive director of Catholic Charities of Central Florida, was invited by local officials and the United Way of Volusia and Flagler counties to provide counseling and case management services for the “newly envisioned” Hope Place family shelter. Although the shelter had been running for some time, it had outgrown the site. So the former Hurst Elementary School was purchased and renovations began.
“It gives us a starting point to re-establish behavioral health services in Volusia County,” said Tester. “Our primary goal is to provide counseling services to the families that are residing at Hope Place. Recognizing that it may not require the full-time utilization of our clinician, Linda, we also have the ability to offer counseling services to people in the community who can schedule appointments there.
“It’s also important because we can do first aid mental health trainings throughout Volusia County with a local clinician,” he continued. “That allows us to serve our parishes and Catholic schools differently, as well as other community members.”
Jane is grateful for the union. She had been to counseling before and said with Stanislaw, it was different. “She lets me speak and take my time. She brought up positive points in me. There’s not a judgmental bone in her body. The experiences she has and the way she talks is like you have a chance in this world. When I panic, she redirects my thinking and reminds me of the progress that I’ve made,” she said.
“She’s helped me, over time, realize that every guy is not going to treat me like that. My situation is the past. I’m not going to be hurt anymore. I can come out of my shell, believe in myself and accomplish anything.” The tools Stanislaw provided emboldened Jane and her family to move into their own apartment.
Stanislaw also teaches a parenting class at Hope Place. Jane has already completed the six-week “Love and Logic” course based on the book by Jim Fay and Foster W. Cline, M.D. Jane said she uses the tools she learned every day with her kids. She loves the emphasis on positivity and noted that giving her children healthy choices teaches them how to make good decisions and keeps her from becoming angry.
Admittedly, she said depression does seize her on some days, but there, Stanislaw’s counseling has again made a difference. “Depression is like this mopey umbrella over your head,” Jane said. “You never know how you’re going to get out of it. But she’s helped me fold that umbrella up, let the sun shine through and, whatever the case may be, I can move forward. I even love rainy days now.”
Counseling is free to Hope Place residents Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., except for noon to 6 p.m. Wednesdays. Parenting classes are offered at Hope Place 6:30-8 p.m. for residents only, at this time.