In 1985, the League of Women Voters performed a needs assessment in conjunction with local law enforcement regarding domestic violence support and assistance in Okaloosa and Walton counties. The survey revealed the reluctance of many domestic violence survivors in Walton and Okaloosa counties to enter Favor House in Pensacola, the closest domestic violence center at the time, because of its distance from jobs and familiar schools for their children. In reaction to this assessment, Shelter House was created and the Board of Directors was installed.
For the next six years, volunteers and board members worked to open a shelter in Okaloosa County that would better serve both Okaloosa and Walton county victims. In December of 1991, Shelter House signed a lease on a three bedroom, two bath home. On January 27, 1992, the emergency shelter opened its doors.
In October 2013, Shelter House announced that its emergency shelter had become pet-friendly. This decision was made with the knowledge that many victims stay in abusive relationships because they have nowhere to go with their pets. With the opening of the Kind Heart Kennel, Shelter House became the only domestic violence shelter in Northwest Florida to allow pets.
In April 2013, Shelter House leadership discovered that the rape crisis services in Okaloosa and Walton counties were ending in May 2013. After a unanimous vote, the Shelter House Board of Directors and Executive Director filed a letter of intent with the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence to become the certified rape crisis center for Okaloosa and Walton counties. Shelter House started providing services in July 2013, including confidential counseling and support groups for sexual assault survivors, families and partners, whether the rape happened yesterday or years ago.
Shelter House, Inc. (Tax ID#: 59-2634092) is the only state-certified domestic and sexual violence center serving victims of Okaloosa and Walton counties and offers a variety of services to participants. Today, services provided include confidential shelter, court advocacy, peer counseling, support groups, primary prevention, transitional housing, economic empowerment workshops, 24-hour domestic violence hotline, 24-hour sexual assault helpline, child therapy services and supportive services for family members of sexual violence victims.
All services are free and confidential.