Homeless on way to a better life

Second in a series

By Deb Murphy

In a perfect world, Wild Iris’ director of programs Susi Bains would have a campus for women, and men, transitioning out of an abusive relationship.

Wild Iris logo

Bains has obviously built this center in her mind over the years. “Of the 550 victims (Wild Iris served in 2013 and 2014),” she said in a phone interview, “100 would have benefited from a center.”

The campus would provide housing, a community kitchen and services to help the victims and their children back on a healthy, self-sufficient path.

But that campus doesn’t exist in either Inyo or Mono counties.
Wild Iris is part of the Consortium of Care’s efforts to meet the needs of the homeless in the Eastern Sierra. The non-profit’s focus is victims of abuse, predominantly women with limited options, faced with the decision to stay with their abuser or leave with no place to go and no resources.

Bains admits the small communities in the Eastern Sierra make the situation tougher. “When the victim is in immediate danger, we put them where nobody knows where they are. That can be difficult.”

After a few nights or up to a week, the next step isn’t any less difficult—where do they go from there. “Many go back to the abuser,” Bains said, “usually because of finances. Some leave the area, some choose to stay (in their communities).”

Mothers in abusive relationships are even more conflicted: modeling violence in what is supposed to be a loving family or finding a stable home environment with no resources.

The organization works with its clients through a transitional program, providing life skills, jobs, counseling, whatever it takes to be self-sufficient. “The reality is they need a stable place, like a long-term shelter,” said Bains.

The dynamics of domestic violence, according to Bains, are both emotional and physical. “Often the women aren’t allowed to work or make decisions,” she said. “They’re alone and it’s scary. They only way they can be really free is to be self-sufficient.”

 

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