BOWLING GREEN - A year after opening, the Cocoon Shelter has proven there is a need for safe housing for victims of domestic violence in the Bowling Green area.
The shelter has doubled its size and increased its staff. Executive Director Michelle Clossick said more importantly, she believes Cocoon has saved lives.
"Absolutely," she said. "There are women who have come into shelter with head injuries, women who have come into shelter after strangulation that by the grace of God didn't die while they were being strangled, a pregnant woman who was stabbed, and both the woman and baby survived."
The Cocoon, which opened last June, is the first domestic violence shelter in Bowling Green.
First Step in Fostoria has served a four-county area, including Wood, for the past 25 years, but after four Wood County women were killed at the hands of their husbands or boyfriends over a two-year period, a grass-roots effort developed to open a shelter in Bowling Green.
During its first year, the Cocoon has provided shelter for 30 battered women and 28 children for 2,058 days. Ms. Clossick said some have stayed less than a week, others for more than two months.
The emergency shelter is intended for a stay of 30 days of less, but the Cocoon almost immediately saw the need for longer "transitional" housing for women, she said.
"When some women come to us they don't have a job. They don't have a car. They don't have a GED. They have a child," Ms. Clossick said. "For them to get out of shelter in 30 days and stay safe and leave their abuser and have some economic stability is very difficult. We help them continue to work toward those goals."
Because of the need for longer-term housing, the owner of the property where the shelter is located agreed to donate additional living and storage space for the Cocoon.
Ms. Clossick said the shelter now has twice as much space as when it opened, although not twice as much capacity because families in transitional housing are provided more space than those who are in emergency shelter.
Wood County Sheriff's Deputy Mary Ann Robinson, a domestic violence specialist, said the Cocoon has given law enforcement officers - and battered women - another option in times of crisis.
"I truly feel that having a shelter close by is beneficial," Deputy Robinson said.
She said that while many women do not want to leave their homes immediately after a domestic violence incident, they might decide later that it's the best move for them and their children.
"In the event that a victim of domestic violence does decide to leave, it is proven that shelter will increase her chance of living," Deputy Robinson said. "When they leave that seems to be the most dangerous time so it's comforting to me to have the shelter here."
Ms. Clossick said funding continues to be the shelter's biggest challenge. The Cocoon has received a number of grants, benefited from numerous fund-raisers, and recently was notified it qualified as a United Way agency.
She expects this year's budget to be around $235,000.
"The really amazing thing is the way this community has stepped up," Ms. Clossick said. "It's indescribable the degree of support we've had. The fact that we could make it through 2005 entirely on local support is extraordinary."
The shelter also is looking for volunteers to work with victims of domestic violence. The next volunteer advocacy class begins in September and involves 60 hours of training. For more information, go to www.cocoonshelter.org.
Contact Jennifer Feehan