Community Welcome House: a refuge from violence

It is a mission of love and compassion as strong as any you might find. And for the abused and abandoned women and children who find a temporary home at the Community Welcome House in Coweta County, it is a refuge from the catastrophic storms of domestic violence and abuse. And it is a place to establish a foundation for healing and for future growth.

Community Welcome House encompasses a multi-dimensional set of programs designed to serve women and children who are the victims of domestic violence.

Located at a secure location in Coweta County, the Community Welcome House facility has a capacity of 30 women and children and averages 20-22 residents, with nearly half being children. The large home has 12 bedrooms of various sizes to accommodate single women or a mother with several children. Once there, the average stay is 9-12 months, said executive director Linda Kirkpatrick.

Several of the women at the Community Welcome House agreed to speak about the circumstances that brought them to the facility and what had transpired since their arrival. There names will not be used out of respect and confidentiality.

Commenting on her stay, one of the residents on a recent afternoon said she had been living at the house for approximately six months after learning of its existence from a friend. The woman said the home provided a place of refuge after spending more than a decade in an abusive marriage.

“I feel safe here. I don’t have to worry about being hit or screamed at,” the woman said.

The resident said the staff are encouraging and supportive, as are the others calling the Community Welcome House a temporary home.

“(Staff) are there to talk when you want to and they helped me get a job,” the woman said, also noting the interaction and reliance of the residents, not only with staff, but with each other. “We pretty much look after each other and help each other out.”

Another resident said she and her children were at the residence because they had been abandoned. Going on for months at the home, the woman said she found out about the facility from her pastor.

“I’m thankful because they are doing everything possible to help us and keep us safe,” the woman explained.

A third woman said it was verbal and physical abuse that led her to the Community Welcome House.

“I left (the situation) and there was nowhere to go,” she said, adding that a stranger more than a month ago told her about a place of refuge. “I was in a state of despair before coming here. I lost everything but I’ve regained my faith and self-esteem and the right to know I’m beautiful.”

The woman said the staff insure a sense of safety that melds with the support provided by both staff and residents.

“We get to know each other. It’s like a family that bonds together, sharing honestly,” she said.

And it is that formative bond between the residents and staff and between the residents themselves that serves as the mortar to build a strong foundation for weathering the storms they suffered and for plotting a course for a better future.

“They come here in crisis. And it takes time for them to get past what happened to bring them here, so there’s no time limit on residency,” said Kirkpatrick.

Kirkpatrick said the Community Welcome House operates with four full-time and four part-time staff. Its range of services include a multitude of areas such as housing, self-sufficiency, educational support, legal advocacy, support for emotional and spiritual needs, parenting classes, nutritional classes, job skills acquisition, resume help, mock interviews, mentoring and, as important as anything, friendship.

The women and their children do leave when the time is right. And when they do the follow-up support goes with them.

“For those who need it when they leave, we assist them in obtaining a living situation and help them furnish it with things like furniture, pots and pans and linens,” said Kirkpatrick. “So we keep a connection after they leave. They have to feel it on the inside before they’ll be okay. We’re here to guide the way for them to be successful in any area, in any way.”

The cost to operate the wide-ranging menu of services totals approximately $22,000 per month. And, by design, those funds come with no state or federal dollars.

“Funding is through donations from the people, businesses, churches and organizations who believe in what we are doing,” Kirkpatrick said, adding that approximately half of all donations come from area residents. The non-profit also holds fundraisers such as the annual “Coweta Dancing Stars” and “O Christmas Tree” event coming this year to the Veranda Bed & Breakfast in Senoia along with other efforts that include motorcycle benefit rides.

It is likely that some amount of funding, perhaps even substantial amounts, could come from state or federal sources. But doing so might eventually compromise the Christian-based atmosphere that is found throughout the home.

“The main reason for not accepting state or federal funding is because I have crosses on the walls and Bibles in every room and we can talk about God,” Kirkpatrick said, noting that she also has precious little time to fill out government paperwork that takes time away from her interactions with the residents.

The Community Welcome House first opened in 1990 and quickly obtained non-profit status. And along the way many services have been added to help bolster the vision that seeks to facilitate permanent change by creating opportunities and removing barriers that have previously prevented women from becoming individually successful and making it possible for women to heal from their past experiences and successfully embrace their future challenges.

To learn more about the Community Welcome House or to lend a hand, contact the Community Welcome House at 770-304-0966 or visit www.communitywelcomehouse.org or at P.O. Box 1631, Newnan, Ga 30264. The organization also operates the New Beginnings thrift store located at 13 Augusta Drive in Newnan. Proceeds from the thrift store support the women and children at the Community Welcome House.

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