This spring a new type of home opened its doors in Lanai City – a safe place for women who are victims of domestic violence. The emergency shelter is operated by Women Helping Women, a Maui-based nonprofit that serves women, men and children who have been abused.
The shelter had its grand opening and blessing on Feb. 24 and recently provided transitional housing for its first residents.
“We are so happy to establish an emergency shelter on Lanai,” said Stacey Moniz, executive director of Women Helping Women. “Now women who are seeking relief from an abusive relationship can stay on Lanai and benefit from the other services we offer here.”
Twenty Years on Lanai
Women Helping Women established its office on Lanai in 1999 thanks to the work of two community members and women’s health advocates, Jacqueline Woolsey and Phyllis McComber. The new shelter has been nicknamed “Jacq & Phyl’s place” to honor their work.
The non-profit has provided critical services on Lanai for nearly two decades, and saw a need for a permanent shelter within the community. Battered women sometimes had to leave the island to seek shelter away from their abusers.
Creating a safe haven
To establish an emergency home, Women Helping Women first worked with community members and Pulama Lanai to identify a suitable location. A home on Fraser Avenue, across from the Lanai Police Station, was ideal for the shelter.
“Because Lanai is so small, a confidential location was not an option. The home’s proximity to the Police Station and the installation of the panic button will ensure the comfort and security of our families,” explained Moniz.
Next the organization applied for a grant and received $265,000 from the state to cover startup costs. The shelter will need $230,000 annually to operate; however, Moniz is confident that community support and funding will continue in the future.
To ready the home for its first occupants, volunteers from the Rotary Clubs of Honolulu and Lanai performed yardwork and painted the exterior. Two Honolulu Rotarians, Bub and Paulette Wo of C.S. Wo furniture company, furnished the home with bunkbeds and other essential pieces for the comfort of future residents.
The two-bedroom home can accommodate up to a dozen people, and has Hawaiian-style punees in the living area for sleeping.
Transitional support and services
Women Helping Women employees on Lanai, Mililani Woolsey-Martin (Jacquie’s daughter) and Monica Rouen, visit the home every day to check on its residents. Rouen and Woolsey-Martin provide support and therapy group sessions as needed. If the occupants require additional assistance, the two women coordinate the distribution of gas vouchers, food vouchers and funding for rental assistance or security deposits.
To qualify for the shelter, incoming residents must be leaving an abusive relationship and may stay in the house for up to 120 days by contract. Some stay only a few days, but others have stayed at Women Helping Women shelters for up to six months because they did not have other housing options.
In addition to the shelter, Women Helping Women offers a range of services to local families out of its office located within Hale Kupuna. Woolsey-Martin and Rouen assist Lanai residents with:
- Filing and maintaining restraining orders
- Safety planning
- Child welfare and domestic violence education
- Instruction on HIV prevention and education
- Substance abuse treatment
- Parenting services
According to Moniz, the Lanai community’s cooperative spirit is key to supporting abused women through their transitions.
“The families we work with have many needs,” Moniz said. “I see a lot of great cooperation on Lanai with medical help, legal help and social support that makes all of this possible.”
To learn more about Women Helping Women’s training, services and the new Lanai shelter, visit their office at Hale Kupuna between 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or visit their website.