Being a mother of five children, including two teenagers, is demanding and stressful enough – making sure they’re well-fed, getting plenty of sleep, doing their homework and all the other responsibilities it takes in just being “mom.”

Then imagine being in a five-year relationship with the father of your three youngest children, who you once loved, but suffering constant physical and mental abuse. During all that time, you do your best to deal with it all on your own in silence not wanting to burden family members and friends with your troubles, and staying with your abuser “for the sake of the children.”

Then one day, you come to the realization that it is for the sake of the children that you must leave with the knowledge that as the abuse continued to escalate over the years it is never going to get better, and, in fact, your life, and perhaps even the lives of your children are at stake.

But where to go?

That was Claire’s life. After making the courageous decision to flee her abuser taking with her only her children and what little they could fit in her car, she hoped to be able to begin to start her life – their lives – anew by finding temporary refuge in a shelter for victims of domestic violence.

However, in Fairfax County, Virginia, one of the wealthiest counties in the country with a population of more than 1 million, Claire quickly discovered that there are less than 100 beds available for battered women and their children, and the waiting list is long.

Claire couldn’t wait, but she couldn’t stay either. So for nearly two years she and her children were homeless. Dire circumstances, yes, but better than being abused and living in fear for her life.

Then one day in early 2017, Claire was referred to the Safe Places program which provides transitional housing to women in Fairfax County just like Claire.

Even if she was able to find room in a shelter for her and her children, she would be limited to 30 days – not nearly enough time to get her life back on track – before they would be back on the street again trying to figure out where they would sleep night after night after night.

But thanks to the Safe Places program, today Claire and her children know where they are going to be sleeping for up to the next two years.

Safe Places Executive Director Amanda Moyer was able to find the perfect home for a family of six, a three-bedroom townhouse near where she has a full-time job, and her children have the stability of going to the same school every day where they are making friends there, as well as in their own neighborhood.

With the basics in place – a roof over her family’s heads and a steady income to put food on the table every day – Claire is now finally able to think about the future as she works to overcome the trauma of the past, and each day is no longer an ordeal of uncertainty.

With Amanda’s encouragement and with the support of her Safe Places case manager who conducts weekly home visits as well as training in finance and budgeting and life skills, Claire is striving to improve her financial situation while in the program so that in two years she will be fully self-sufficient.

Safe Places provides assistance to clients like Claire who want to take classes to earn certifications and degrees so that she will have more than just a job, but a career with opportunity for advancement – and a life free of abuse and a future filled with hope.

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