(Victorville) – October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. With that, the focus is usually on the adult victims, hardly do people focus on the teen victims. In San Bernardino County there are currently no shelters that can take in victims under the age of 18. Family Assistance Program in Victorville saw the need, and decided to take action to fill that gap.
“We have been awarded a grant to open a shelter for runaway teens in San Bernardino County,” said Darryl Evey, executive director of Family Assistance Program, formerly known as the High Desert Domestic Violence Program in Victorville. “We’re getting $200,000 a year for three years from the federal government to run this shelter.”
“The purpose of the shelter is family reunification,” explained Evey. “The goal is to take a runaway, find out what’s going on in their life that caused them to run away from home, find out what’s going on with the family and what can we do to address the problem so that this child doesn’t feel that they need to runaway anymore.”
Family Assistance Program has found a location. They are waiting on an additional grant that will be awarded in December to move forward. They must also complete the state licensing process which takes several months.
“It is exciting. I’ve been working on the project for about two years,” said Evey. “There is such a need. There is not a teen shelter in our county. Riverside County has two, LA County has eight. We’re the only county in Southern California that doesn’t have one. So we’re filing that need.”
Evey told the story for his inspiration to pursue this goal. It came about when he got to know Flo Woodmore, a woman who was a victim of domestic violence as a teenager. “She’s an amazing person,” said Evey. “She had an alcoholic mother and an abusive stepfather. At 14 she moved in with her 19 year old boyfriend. When she was 17 and pregnant with her second child, her boyfriend had turned into an alcoholic and was abusive to her. She went to a shelter. But because she was under 18, the shelter told her they could not legally help her. They told her to go home to her mother.”
“One day her boyfriend came home drunk and she met him with a gun and said, ‘You’re not beating me up again.’ He said, ‘Yes I am’ and he came at her, so she shot and killed him. She spent the next 22 years in prison. When I heard about this I decided that we need to fix this, we need to do something to solve that problem.”
The law has changed since this happened in 1985. Woodmore was released on parole in 2007 and is now working with a prison re-entry program in Compton, helping women who are released from prison to reintegrate into society and re-connect with their families.
“That’s why I’m thinking of calling the teen shelter Flo’s House – she’s the reason why we have it,” said Evey.