By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer
Come May, there'll be a shelter for victims of domestic violence in Troy.
It'll be run by Shield of Grace Ministries from the Belton First Assembly of God.
'We've got a house, and it's being remodeled,' said Alicia Prado of Temple, project board member. 'We plan to be open by the middle of May.'
Pastor Harry Thrasher of Belton First Assembly of God says the shelter will be a great asset for the community.
'It's a good thing because in the ministry, we see women who are battered and fearful for their lives but have no place to go,' Thrasher said. 'We want to open doors to them and give them counseling, so that they can get their lives back on track. It's a chance for them to get out of bondage.'
But the shelter won't be funded and managed by Belton Assembly of God alone.
'It's a community effort,' said Melissa McCoy, shelter board member. 'Several other churches have joined the effort, and our volunteer count is up to 20 or so.'
Donna Dunn of Temple is one of those volunteers.
'There is a definite need for this shelter,' Ms. Dunn said. 'It will be able to help women who need to get out of dangerous situations immediately.'
The exact location of the shelter will not be disclosed to protect its future inhabitants.
'Security is the No. 1 thing these women will need,' Ms. McCoy said. 'So the address won't be posted on any of our promotional material, and our volunteers won't be giving it out.'
Children who stay at the shelter with their mothers will have transportation to school, but it won't be by bus. That, Ms. Prado said, would be too much of a risk.
'We'll work a schedule out where private transportation can take place,' Ms. Prado said. 'The shelter won't be on the bus route, so the offenders won't be able to access the shelter's information through the schools.'
Also for safety reasons, cell phones will not be allowed on shelter property.
'The women's cell phones will be turned off and locked up,' Ms. McCoy said. 'And there won't be a land line. There'll only be one working cell phone on the property, and that will be with the house mother (Theria King of Temple).'
In the event of an emergency, Ms. King will be able to contact the police department or call 911. Ms. McCoy said the area fire departments and police stations have already been briefed on the shelter, its location and the reason why protection is necessary.
'All of this is for the women's safety,' Ms. McCoy said.
Once renovations are complete, the shelter will house six to eight women.
'Our plan is to expand and build private cottages where mothers can stay with their children,' Ms. Prado said. 'The main building will be more of a dormitory setting for single women.'
The day-to-day operations of the Shield of Grace shelter will be based on the Genesis Center in Coffman.
'They're faith based,' Ms. Prado said. 'And that was something that was important to us because you can't heal or get stronger without Him.'
So at the Troy shelter, there'll be routine Bible studies and worship. Only Christian music will be played, and any movies viewed will have be rated PG or G.
'This will be a Christian place,' Ms. McCoy said. 'We want to give these women a place to feel safe where they can invite the Lord into their heart and ask for healing.'
The Shield of Grace shelter will also be a place of learning.
'We'll have people on site to teach life skills like housekeeping, cooking, gardening and sewing,' Ms. McCoy said.
And there'll be a class on self-defense.
'We'll talk about basic awareness of your surroundings and how to handle one-on-one conflict,' said Jessie Oestreich of Belton, the woman who will teach the self-defense classes. Ms. Oestrich is a former professional boxer who teaches kickboxing.
'We'll also talk about the importance of being alert and keeping yourself trained,' she said.
For needs like counseling and medical care, Ms. Mcoy said the shelter has recruited professionals from Scott & White and private practices who will volunteer their services.
'We've been getting great response from people who want to help,' Ms. McCoy said.
The shelter also has a partnership with the Texas Workforce Commission to help women find steady employment, and they've forged relationships with other area service groups.
'We'll be able to refer pregnant women to Hope Pregnancy Center and others to Families in Crisis,' Ms. McCoy said. 'We'll also be working with Family Promise.'
The shelter will work on a first-come, first-served basis. Women will need to be clean of drugs for at least 30 days and past any withdrawal symptoms.
'And those with children older than 11 or 12 will be referred to other help agencies,' Ms. McCoy said. 'Right now we're equipped to house the younger ones.'
Women will not have to pay rent, but they will need to commit to a Christian lifestyle and go through five phases of healing and learning, which could take up to three or four months.