About CHOICES for Victims of Domestic Violence

CHOICES, a program of Lutheran Social Services, has served as Columbus’ only safe haven for victims of domestic violence for nearly 40 years. In 2013, Choices increased the number of beds from 29 to 51 and added five infant cribs.  Despite changes and improvements, the outdated facility is no longer adequate to meet the increasing demand for shelter and services.  In fiscal year 2017, CHOICES provided services to approximately 2,000 individuals, including 662 unduplicated shelter clients with an average stay of 42 days.

Foundation Support

“The Osteopathic Heritage Foundation has approved a $2 million lead gift to Lutheran Social Services of Central Ohio, to support the CHOICES for Victims of Domestic Violence campaign to construct a new shelter in Franklin County,” said Terri Donlin Huesman, vice president. “It is distressing our community needs it, but there is a critical need for a new shelter, and we are pleased to be in a position to provide a leadership gift to help launch the campaign.”

The funding award to the CHOICES capital campaign was made as part of the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation’s Signature Impact Initiative, which prioritizes funding to address pressing health and quality of life issues for the community’s vulnerable populations.

The Community Need

According to recent statistics, one in every three women and one in four men will experience some form of intimate partner violence in their lifetime. In Franklin County alone, police responded to more than 9,000 incidents of domestic violence in 2014. With CHOICES expected to serve nearly 2,000 individuals in 2016—750 of whom will need shelter for an average of 30 days—a new facility is critical to meet the demand and serve these survivors.

Sue Villilo, executive director of CHOICES, looks forward to expanding services: “The new, 55,000 square foot facility will increase the number of beds from 51 to 120, growing capacity by 135 percent.” While the specific location of the new facility will not be disclosed, a safe neighborhood providing a secure environment for families seeking refuge has been identified, according to Villilo.

The new shelter will embrace a trauma-informed approach to working with survivors of domestic violence, which helps rebuild survivors’ dignity and fosters a sense of healing. Unique staffing plans for the shelter include an on-site crisis counselor, who will immediately address emotional and psychological needs of victims coming from crisis situations. Because almost half of shelter residents are children, a family activities coordinator will provide support for parents and children transitioning to the shelter. Space will be made available for family pets; statistics show that up to 40 percent of domestic violence victims stay in an abusive home because they refuse to leave pets behind, and often, in danger.

The new domestic violence shelter is expected to open in late 2018.