It's hard to imagine a more high-profile location for the new Domestic Abuse Intervention Services shelter than the former Sears Home Central Service building, across from Webcrafters on Fordem Avenue. Shannon Barry, executive director of the group, say that's exactly why the site was chosen. It's on a bus line, and it's central to other resources clients often use, like the Job Center, Access Community Health and the Rainbow Project. But most importantly, Barry says, a highly secure public location is actually safer.
"When you think about it, batterers don't want to be known for who they are. They bank on secrecy. So showing up at a public facility and walking around or trying to scope out the building, they're admitting culpability for who they are."
More and more domestic violence shelters across the country are moving away from confidential facilities and into centrally located public buildings. The move often means shelters get a lot more community support.
"The community is aware of what the building is, and so you have more eyes on the street with neighbors and others in the community," Barry says. "And I think it makes a very strong statement to victims and survivors by saying, 'This community cares about you. This is this place that we have for you."
She also believes that a public facility aligns with the work her group has been doing to try to bring domestic violence out of the shadows.
"I think that by having confidential facilities, in some ways programs like DAIS over the years have reinforced that stigma and that shame that you have to be very secret about getting help. And we really want to send a strong message that people deserve help and that domestic violence isn't their fault."
Community leaders are pleased that the vacant building, built in 1950, could now have a new and vital purpose.
"It just delights me that they are able to use the bones of the building and create something wonderful out of it," says District 12 Ald. Satya Rhodes-Conway.
Barry says the site will be truly transformed. The front of the building will be renovated to hold offices, the back will be torn down to create space for a completely new residential portion of the facility, and green spaces will be added. And everything will be built for maximum security.
Barry hopes the move to a public location will send a strong message to abusers.
"We see you, we know what you are doing, and it's not acceptable."