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St. Jude House marks 25 years of helping domestic violence survivors

Times - 11/21/2020

Nov. 21--Mary Freda

CROWN POINT -- In the beginning, Mariana Naglosky didn't pick up on the little signs.

When her former boyfriend got mad and walked around a corner after another man made her laugh at her son's birthday party, she thought: "I don't know what that's all about. Whatever, it's fine."

From there, however, the abuse got "bigger and bigger and bigger," the domestic violence survivor said during a panel recently.

"For mine, it did not start physical. The worst physical came at the end when I was strong enough and close enough and ready enough to leave," Naglosky said.

"I am an independent woman. I would say that we probably all are up here, right? But they find a way to take that away from you. He took away my independence. He broke me down little by little, by little."

Fifteen months ago, Naglosky was able to escape her abuser and found resources at St. Jude House to help her gain her independence back.

Though she didn't have to stay there because a friend opened up her home, Naglosky spoke with St. Jude House's legal advocate and took classes.

"They helped provide school supplies for me and my kids. They supplied Thanksgiving meal for me and my kids. They supplied Christmas presents for me and my kids," she said.

"My little girl, she still is like, 'Are we gonna go back to that place that has the living room and the play room in the back and the playground out back?' And she's talking about St. Jude House."

Naglosky said she didn't realize she was being abused, "I was only hit sometimes. I wasn't always hit, like sometimes it was the wall, or sometimes he would break something."

However, a former friend who came back into Naglosky's life asked: Do you realize how bad this is?

That's when Naglosky made an escape plan.

In Indiana, 42.5% of women and 27.9% of men experience physical or sexual violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetimes, according to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 2010-2012 State Report by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nationwide, more than one in three women, about 37.3%, and nearly one in three men, 30.9%, will experience violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey shows.

While the St. Jude House was created to help women, men and children in these situations, seeing the non-profit's success is bittersweet, said Don Burrell, who founded the shelter in 1995.

"It just so happened it grew, it's a shame that it grew, but yet it grew. At the rate it's going right now, with the pandemic and the situations that are happening -- if that continues I would think the St. Jude House and other shelters like it will be around for another 25 years," Burrell said.

"I would say I hope it doesn't happen, but you just never know. The goal is to see the St. Jude House and other shelters like ours ... be able to close, and we wouldn't need them."

Since its inception, St. Jude house has helped 13,500 men, women and children with residential programming, and thousands of others with non-residential services, said Buffy Adams, St. Jude House director of development.

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On average, 1,500 calls per year come to the shelter's 24/7 crisis hotline, and St. Jude House is expected to exceed 1,700 calls in 2020, Adams said, noting 20,000 calls are made daily to national domestic violence hotlines.

Humble beginnings

Burrell founded St. Jude after making a promise and witnessing signs of domestic violence at his business, Burrell Imaging, previously known as Burrell Professional Labs.

"It all started by praying to St. Jude to help us start our business and to hopefully if it would grow, and if he will help us, I would definitely do something in return," Burrell explained.

"As we grew, and we had 14 plants throughout the country, and close to 80% of our staff were women," he said. "We did see some abuse throughout the whole system, had some cases of people coming in to work that had abuse. Some people getting their paychecks and going out to a parking lot, and their spouses would pick up a check and leave."

At the time, St. Jude House was, and still is, the only shelter in South Lake County. It also was the first local shelter to publish its address -- a choice Burrell recalled as radical.

"Once we started to build the St. Jude House, we wondered, how are people going to know where we were and what we did?" Burrell said. "The only way that we would be able to do that was to publish where we were, and also go to all the police departments and fire departments and let them know that we existed and what we were there for."

Burrell said the staff figured if someone was in trouble, they didn't have time to look in a phone book or to ask somebody if a shelter for abused women and children existed.

"It was a very radical thing, but we felt that the only way people would know and be able to be helped, was to know exactly where we were and how we are operated," he said. "I think because of that a number of shelter homes throughout the country now do publish their places, where they're at."

Even then, the services St. Jude offered were free.

"We figured that they really wouldn't have the financial wherewithal when they come over there on a moment's notice, and that the only way to help them was to be able to furnish everything for them," he said.

"There would be no cost to them for staying there, or for the food, or for the clothing, and for the help that we were able to give them through the St. Jude House."

A continuing mission

Today, the facility has 40 beds and continues to provide men, women and children services at no cost, said Ryan Elinkowski, director of St. Jude House.

While there have been some changes at the shelter amid the COVID-19 pandemic -- common areas are limited to one family at a time, temperature checks are in place and there's a new cleaning schedule -- the non-profit's mission remains the same.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Elinkowski said there has been an uptick in high lethality cases of domestic violence.

"It's not unusual for us to have high lethality cases, or survivors that we're serving, but to have as many at one time, as far as like strangulation cases or working with the local police departments, is not unusual, but the amount of local police departments that have referred clients to us during the pandemic is a clear uptick," he said.

Though the shelter has been around for a quarter of a century, the stigma around going to a shelter still exists, Elinkowski said.

"When people think of a shelter, they think of an open room with people fighting for blankets. We have nine bedrooms, and you would never think of a playground," he said. "I want to disassociate the stigma of coming to a shelter for anyone that that does need help, because it can be this peaceful and it needs to be."

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