On October 6, 1982, The House of Ruth, Inc. opened in a rented house in Dothan, Alabama, to provide safe temporary shelter for battered women and their children who had left their own homes to escape being hit and hurt.
The House of Ruth, Inc. is a grass roots, non-profit private corporation developed as a result of two years of planning by professional groups, service agency representatives and concerned citizens. The agency provides services to an eight country service area in Southeast Alabama: Barbour, Bullock, Coffee, Dale, Geneva, Henry, Houston and Pike. A statement of need and support from area law enforcement, District Attorneys, physicians, service agencies and individuals was all that was needed to initiate a funding base sufficient enough to rent the house and train volunteers for action.
In August of 1983, The House of Ruth made a major step forward in the hiring of a full-time Executive Director with the background and qualifications needed to supervise and develop the shelter program.
In July of 1984, relief staff were added to provide night and weekend staff on an "as needed" basis for the shelter program. Even with this addition the continued services to the client population depended a great deal on the support of the volunteer staff.
Beginning with the third year of operation, The House of Ruth was able to purchase a house. The facility was larger and more adequate than the previously rented house and opened in November of 1984. In addition, a volunteer facilitator began offering an open-ended community based support group for victims of domestic violence who needed ongoing peer support.
In September of 1985, a full-time Assistant to the Executive Director was hired to assist with carrying out the development and implementation of the program.
In the spring of 1986, the Dothan Service League made a generous donation, which provided the installation of window security bars, security doors, and a "panic" system. As a result of this, the words "safe shelter" took on a new meaning.
In June of 1986, the program received a Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant, through the Law Enforcement Planning division of A.D.E.C.A., which provided monies for staffing. The agency hired a full-time Shelter Coordinator and Office Manager, which replaced the Assistant to Director, a Night Manager and a regular Weekend/Relief Staff. For the first time, The House of Ruth was staffed 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. A devoted staff of volunteers continued to provide services on the 24-hour crisis line, support group and with daily needs of the client population.
In June of 1987, the program received a continuation of its Victims of Crime grant, which provided monies to open an Administrative/Out-of-Shelter Counseling Office. The administrative staff was moved to a centrally located office in downtown Dothan. This allowed for much needed sleeping quarters at the shelter facility. The Woman's Advocate was hired and has developed and implemented a program of counseling, advocacy and case management services to out-of-shelter victims of domestic violence. This was the beginning of providing on-going services to victims of domestic violence who were not actually living in the shelter facility. This program continued to grow and expand by providing legal advocacy, either criminal or civil, and through outreach services to domestic violence victims in the outlying counties.
In July of 1990, the City of Dothan was awarded an Emergency Shelter grant (ESG). The City then made these funds available to The House of Ruth to provide shelter for homeless individuals. The agency utilized these 50-50 matching funds to purchase and renovate a second safe shelter house. This facility opened in May of 1991 doubling the available bed space of the agency. (14 beds per shelter facility)
In the spring of 1991, the Board of Directors of The House of Ruth restated the Articles of Incorporation to include as a mission the provision of services to the victims of sexual assault. This expanded view of violence against women came as the result of two rape victims who encouraged the agency's Executive Director and a Board member to volunteer their time to facilitate a support group for sexual assault survivors. After almost a year of participation in this well attended group, the need for more services became apparent.
In August of 1991, the agency was awarded an increase in VOCA grant funding and established the Sexual Assault Services (SAS) program component of the agency. The Sexual Assault Services Coordinator was hired and an office was opened to begin to develop a program to meet the needs of sexual assault victims. Other funds from this grant were utilized to establish a new position, Case Manager, for the domestic violence shelter program.
In the late summer of 1992, the agency received a private foundation grant from KARITAS to initiate a Children's program for in-shelter children. A part-time Children's Advocate joined the staff. Also in 1992, the agency started to receive the benefits of a Department of Education Homeless Children's grant awarded to the Dothan City Schools that provides therapeutic group counseling and tutorial services for the in-shelter children. The Children's Program and the Children's Advocate position have been continued by an award of a grant from the Lutheran World Relief and through VOCA funding.
In the fall of 1992, the program was awarded a grant through the State's Department of Public Health, which provided for a part-time staff position to concentrate on prevention/education in the area of sexual assault.
In the summer of 1994, the agency received two additional VISTA volunteers. One VISTA is assigned to work on special projects and funding efforts. The other VISTA serves as the agency's Volunteer Coordinator. In 1996, the agency received a third VISTA position. This VISTA provides education, awareness and in service training on the issue of domestic violence.
In April of 1996, with funding from LCMS World Relief, the agency began a support group for the non-shelter children and thus realized another dream in providing services to the often-unseen victims of domestic violence.
In 1997, additional sexual assault prevention & education funding became available and the Sexual Assault Prevention & Education Coordinator became a full-time position with funds for educational and training materials.
In 1998, Violence Against Women Act funding provided the agency with six full-time positions:
In 1999, the VAWA funding allowed the agency to add a third shift to both shelters during the week and a Secretary.
- Three Victim Advocates - one for each outlying judicial circuit.
- A Legal Advocate - a licensed attorney to represent agency clients.
- A Team Coordinator - to set up multi-disciplinary teams in each of the eight counties to work on system changes to help victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
- A Resource Specialist - To coordinate volunteers and resources.
The House of Ruth is a much-utilized resource in the area of professionals and individuals who become aware of the program of violence against women and who come in contact with domestic violence and sexual assault victims. As awareness of the availability of the services of the agency continues to grow it is welcomed by service providers, as well as by the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.