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Desert Sanctuary, Haley House

Helping Hands by Helen Bendure

Deser t Sanctuary/Haley House had its beginning in Barstow in 1982. This Saturday they will celebrate their first 25 years with an open house from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at their Domestic Outreach Center, 703 E. Main St. There will be tours, entertainment and barbecue sandwiches, and their thrift shop will be open. The public is urged to attend to learn more about this operation and the many growth improvements that have been accomplished during these years.

The Barstow-area sanctuary for battered women had its beginning as a task force. It was a vision of the founders that it would be an umbrella organization that would house many services and resources for Barstow residents. With a 501(c)(3) status for Desert Sanctuary, Inc., a board of directors and a small volunteer staff, it was ready to open its doors in June 1983. Kathy Haley, a probation officer in the Barstow area, had a great deal to do with this facility and after her untimely death it was decided to name it Haley House in her memory. Today there is a 15-bed, 24-hour, six-month shelter for female victims and their children in a secure, confidential neighborhood. For quite some time, they were limited to a 36-day stay.

Desert Sanctuary, Inc. is now known as Desert Sanctuary/ Haley House. A great deal of time and energy has gone into its development. Peggi Fries became executive director in 1999. In 2001, they were able to acquire property at the corner of 7th and Main Street enabling the establishment of a Community Outreach Center. In the new building, there was space for business offices, rooms for special classes and meetings and a thrift shop. There was a place to train victims of domestic violence away from the shelter with child care for children. The training includes parenting, positive methods of discipline, life skills, substance abuse, peer counseling and more.

First, they built the thrift shop. It provides low-cost items for shelter clients and others who have been displaced by natural disasters and homelessness. It also provides opportunity for work experience for the welfare office and a place for people to work off community service hours assigned through the courts. Next came supervised visitation - a safe environment in which non-custodial parents could spend time with their children in a supervised facility. To follow were the additions of a legal advocate to provide assistance with domestic violence restraining orders and assistance and advocacy with the courts and a community education liaison to coordinate and approve all curriculums used in shelter outreach programs and train/supervise all facilitators for shelter and community groups and classes.

The Catholic Charities grants administrator now gives service to screen applicants needing assistance. She works with funding by FEMA, United Way and others provided to Catholic Charities designated for the Barstow area. San Bernardino County Sexual Assault Services comes to provide counseling to community victims each week.

In the meantime, Fries says that they have raised funds to completely pay off the mortgage on the office/resource complex. They have also done extensive remodeling, added office space and invited community partners, obtained funding from First 5, and established a successful collaborative with Vista Guidance Centers. They have opened a transitional housing group home facility where they work hand in hand with Vista. They have provided an amazing comprehensive curriculum. The 40-hour class focuses on the effects of exposure to family violence on children and basic life skills of "Speak-Listen-Cooperate." They have assistance with budget and finance, resume-writing and job preparation and domestic violence support groups. On site there is a fully equipped child development center providing professional child care while parents received services, groups and/ or classes.

They need help from us in this community to continue with donations of funds and special items such as cleaning supplies, paper goods (towels, toilet tissue, napkins), women's personal items, shampoo, soap, etc., non-perishable foods and items to sell at the thrift shop. They also need volunteers. For more information, call 256-3733.

Fries says, "We have, at the 25-year mark, finally begun to realize the vision of becoming the umbrella agency, providing a plethora of community services and resources. We are proud, and we still have a lot of growth to achieve." Desert Sanctuary now partners with other organizations to widen the training of victims of domestic violence."

Thanks to Desert Sanctuary/Haley for the great things they do for this community. Mark your calendar to go say "thanks" and attend the open house Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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