Shelter House is best known for our 24/7 domestic violence hotline (850-863-4777) and the confidential emergency shelter where victims, along with their children and pets, can stay for up to eight weeks. Shelter House also has outreach offices in Fort Walton Beach, Crestview and DeFuniak Springs where survivors can meet with advocates for peer counseling, food pantry, support groups and referrals to other community resources. Shelter House advocates also attend court with participants to provide support and inform them of their legal rights. A small number of apartments are available to participants who apply to the transitional housing program. This federally funded program helps survivors move into an apartment where rent and deposits are initially covered with support reduced over time as the participant becomes more independent.
While domestic violence does include physical violence, that is not an all-inclusive definition. It is one partner’s consistent efforts to maintain power and control over the other. That might mean physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or financial abuse. Not all of these are prosecutable crimes under the law, but you can seek help from Shelter House for any of these types of abuse.
No, you do not. If you identify yourself as a victim of domestic violence by an intimate partner, contact us at 850-863-4777 to start receiving services.
No, you do not have to be a U.S. citizen. If you are in Okaloosa or Walton County and are a victim of intimate partner violence, you can call us at 850-863-4777 to find out about services. Shelter House has a bilingual English/Spanish advocate on staff and uses translation services for speakers of other languages.
Domestic violence does not mean just physical violence. It encompasses all sorts of controlling and abusive behaviors including verbal abuse, emotional manipulation, forced sexual activity or financial control. Domestic violence crosses all age, racial, ethnic, nation-orientation, sexual, gender preference, spiritual and socioeconomic boundaries.
Yes. Domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, age, race, sexual orientation or socioeconomic level. Shelter House can and does assist male victims of domestic violence.
Witnessing domestic violence can have a profound, long-term impact on children. Shelter House has youth advocates in shelter and outreach who support the children of survivors. We also contract with a play therapist who works with children and the non-offending parent. Throughout the year, Shelter House will assist children with school supplies, tutoring materials and extracurricular activity expenses.
Yes. The Kind Heart Kennel is located on-site at our emergency shelter. Pets can be a tremendous source of comfort during stressful times and being able to keep their pets close by can help the people we serve as they begin their healing process. Residents in the shelter can keep pocket pets such as hamsters and gerbils in cages in their rooms, while dogs and cats have their own space that pet owners can access whenever they want to spend time with their pets.
The most important thing you can do is let your friend know you believe her or him and that you are there to listen and not judge. Never blame the victim or ask your friend why she/he hasn’t left yet. Do not try to make decisions for your friend or force her/him to take action. You can offer them the number for Shelter House’s 24/7 domestic violence hotline: 850-863-4777.
There are many reasons why domestic violence victims stay with their abusers. Some victims think the behavior will change. They might stay because they have children together. There is guilt over “failing” at the relationship and admitting it to friends and family. Many victims do not have the financial means to support themselves and their children. Fear of retaliation is also a very real concern. Leaving an abusive relationship is often the most dangerous time for victims. That is why we encourage victims to talk to an advocate and develop a safety plan if they are thinking about leaving.
Domestic violence happens everywhere. In a single year, Shelter House provides emergency shelter to more than 220 adults and children, houses more than 45 women and children in transitional housing apartments and provided services to nearly 400 adults and children through outreach. And there are so many more right here in our community who have not yet reached out to us.
Shelter House provides various services to sexual assault survivors, ages 12 and up, whether the abuse happened recently or years ago. Victims can call the 24/7 sexual assault helpline at 850-226-2027 to access services. An advocate on the Rape Response Team (RRT) will accompany victims during forensic examinations and law enforcement interviews and inform the victim of his or her rights. Ongoing support is available through our outreach offices in Fort Walton Beach, Crestview and DeFuniak Springs. In certain cases, such as when the perpetrator lives with the victim, sexual assault victims might stay in our emergency shelter. Advocates can provide legal advocacy to victims and support for friends and family of survivors who need help supporting the victim and dealing with their own feelings.
Sexual violence is defined as any sexual act perpetrated against someone’s will. It could be completed or attempted. It includes penetration as well as touching either over or under clothing. Non-contact sexual assault includes acts like voyeurism, sexual harassment, unwanted exposure to pornography and taking sexual photos of someone without his or her knowledge.
Your safety is the top priority. If you are not in a safe place, call 911 if possible. It is a good idea to seek medical attention. At any time, you can call the Shelter House sexual assault helpline. Advocates are standing by 24/7 to answer and respond. The number is 850-226-2027. Shelter House has a Rape Response Team (RRT) that will accompany you at any hospital in Okaloosa or Walton counties. The advocate is there to be sure you are informed about your rights and to advocate for what you want. The advocate will not try to talk you into anything you do not want to do. You can choose whether or not you want to report the assault to law enforcement and have a rape kit collected. The advocate can also provide you with clothes to wear after the exam is completed and personal hygiene items. If you choose, you can continue seeing a Shelter House advocate after the initial trauma.
Yes. Sexual violence can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, age, race, sexual orientation or socioeconomic level. Shelter House can and does assist male victims of sexual assault.
If someone you care about reveals she or he has been sexually assaulted, the most important thing you can do is be supportive. Let the victim know you believe her or him, what happened is not their fault and it doesn’t change how you view that person. You can give the victim the number to Shelter House’s 24/7 sexual assault helpline: 850-226-2027.
Sexual violence happens everywhere. In a single year, Shelter House received 183 calls on the sexual assault helpline and activated the Rape Response Team (RRT) 68 times. And there are many more victims who never report their assault or contact us for help.
Please refer to our Wish List for items we most need. Food, cleaning products, personal hygiene items and gift cards are always welcome as well as monetary donations.
Generally, we do not have the storage space to accept clothing and furniture donations. You can always call our program office at 850-243-1201 to be sure we do not have a current need for the items you are looking to donate. We do have an agreement with Goodwill in Fort Walton Beach (located at 913 Beal Parkway, NW). Donate there and ask them to designate it for Shelter House. They issue vouchers that our participants can use to shop for exactly what they need at that time. This method supports our empowerment-based model where we encourage survivors to become independent and make their own decisions.
While the location of our emergency shelter is confidential, the locations of our outreach offices are not. Donations are always welcome at our program office located at 16 Ferry Road, SE in Fort Walton Beach weekdays between 8am and 5pm. If you would like to drop off a donation at our other outreach offices, please call first to ensure a staff member will be present. The number at Crestview is 850-683-0845, and you can reach DeFuniak Springs at 850-362-7190.