Safe Center expanding services

by Todd Brooks
Safe Center Executive Director Cora Thomas Safe Center Executive Director Cora Thomas

Cora Thomas proudly takes a visitor around on a tour of The Safe Center’s new home pointing out different rooms and their purpose.

“This room is twice as big as the one at the other place,” Thomas, the director, says more than once on the tour.

The Safe Center (formerly Women’s Haven) officially moved into its new home on 5th Street in Duncan on Monday.

The new home is the former Youth Shelter. It is so new to the organization that tables outside of Thomas’ office hold books and folders as she works on organizing her roomy workspace.

It took a couple of months of moving to get everything moved over from the former place near the Duncan Post Office.

Thomas sighs as she thinks back to all the hard work for the staff and volunteers to move more than 20 years’ worth of stuff.

The large kitchen has been a hit with clients that dropped by the past two days.

“They want to have cooking classes,” Thomas says with a smile. “I told them then I get to eat what they make.”

Programs and classes are one of the main focuses of the Safe Center. They have had them before but with the new space, they hope to add even more.

“This building is about three times the size of our old one,” Thomas said. “I’m so thankful the old board thought ahead.”

Thomas said with the new building, they definitely want to use it, which means people need to know where they are at 810 N. 5th. A common misconception has been they want to keep their location a secret.

That is not the case at all. When the youth shelter was there, they did have rooms for clients to stay in. Like the former location, the Safe Center does not have places to stay on site. They have emergency shelters at undisclosed locations.

Another misconception is the organization is only for women. They realize men and children can also be victims of domestic abuse, which is the main reason for the name change.

“That’s why we did our re-branding at our fundraiser before we moved in,” Thomas says.

Services provided include a 24-hour crisis hotline, crisis intervention, short-term emergency shelter, basic needs assistance such as clothing, food and toiletries, court and hospital advocacy, legal services/protective orders, support groups, resource referrals and education and community outreach services.

In 2018, they served 350-400 individuals. Most of the clients come from Stephens County, but they also serve Jefferson County.

There are currently seven volunteers and more are needed, Thomas says.  There are many ways to serve. There is office work, answering phones, or helping do a presentation as part of fundraising.

“We have a 24-hour call line. If people volunteer, we will find their niche,” Thomas says.

Those interested in volunteering can pick up an application at the new address.

They plan to have a monthly meet-and-greet at area libraries. The first one was scheduled at the Duncan Public Library. They plan on rotating to different libraries each month.

“We are always looking for volunteers,” Thomas says. “We are such a small agency volunteers are crucial to what we do.”

Donations are always welcome from items with basic needs to monetary donations.

Thomas was concerned about the partial government shutdown because half of the center’s money comes from the federal government.  With the shutdown now over, it still may take a little while for it to trickle back down.

The goal in 2019 is to expand services and make the most of the new building.

It’s not just the inside that has the staff excited, but they also have a backyard with a privacy fence that they are really looking forward to using when the weather warms up. It will be a place for kids to play along with the playroom while the parent takes care of business with the staff.

“It will be a great place for social gatherings as well,” Thomas says.

There’s also added privacy of a three-car garage since sometimes a client’s car needs to be parked somewhere for safekeeping.

“And just because you see someone’s car here doesn’t mean they are a victim,” Thomas said. “They could be a volunteer or just simply dropping off a donation.”