At Women’s Shelter, More Need…Less Access

Finex House Continues Its Mission During Pandemic

Emma Kehoe ('21), Orbit Reporter

A home is a place where people gather and become a true family. This year with COVID-19 regulations, shelters for women and children, like the Finex House of Boston, have to make this idea a reality while keeping everyone safe at the same time. 

The square building located in Boston, MA welcomes a new mother and child into it’s care one cold winter day in December. This is a deed Jane Doe has been doing for years. For privacy reasons, the owner of the Finex House has chosen to remain unnamed, due to a past of abusive relationships and stalking husbands. This is one of the reasons Doe opened the shelter in the first place.

The idea of the Finex House is to provide comfort and a sense of home for battered, trafficked, and/or disabled women and their children. The idea came became reality when three strong, formerly abused women paired together with a dream to help other struggling women survive their abusive situation, and have a place to run to. With an idea and a lease, this dream became a reality.

The Finex house was established in 1983, painted with the motto, ‘I Belong to No One.’

The Finex house was established in 1983, painted with the motto, “I Belong to No One.” The shelter was a place designed to provide emergency shelter for the most vulnerable female victims of abuse, torment, stalking, etc. The owners of the shelter strive to provide these women with a better life, offering to help with moving into a new home, mental health therapy, substance abuse counseling, parent classes, and so much more. This sense of motivation and rehabilitation gives the shelter a reputation of being more than just a place to stay, but a place to grow.

Crisis struck in March of 2020. Complete lockdown of shelters due to the Coronavirus pandemic caused a complete downfall of new members in shelters like the Finex House. “We didn’t know what to do. People could no longer volunteer, and we were not only losing business, we were losing hope in our dream.” Doe remarks, as she reflects on the hardships that March 13th brought to her shelter. “There was a complete lack of overall involvement in our shelter. We felt like we had no one to help us.” 

Volunteering and donating are two very important aspects of shelter life, and with the pandemic interrupting these norms, The Finex House as well as many other national shelters had touched into havoc. “Not many items can be donated currently, and of the short list of items that can be, the clothing needs to be washed before and after it is donated, in a very thorough manner.” Doe goes on to explain the safety concerns of everyone living in close quarters corners. “We need to protect our victims. That has always been our top priority. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has made this tougher than normal, no one promised us easy.” Doe remains determined to offer safe shelter and a healthy environment to those escaping a toxic and unhealthy one.

“Of course there has been more of a need for the shelter during this time,” Doe explains. “However, numbers have lowered drastically because women cannot leave their toxic situations. Before, doctors were able to call us during a victim’s appointment, and we were able to rescue them from the [doctor’s] office. Now, there are less doctor visits, and when there are, they are typically over zoom, where the victim is sitting at home with their abuser, and cannot share any private information.” What hurts Doe the most, as she explains, is that with the pandemic, there is more need than ever for a safe shelter away from the unsafe home many are stuck in, but there is less access than ever. “That is what kills me,” she adds. 

“A woman had called the food stamps line to request more financial benefits, and while on the line she slipped in that she would like to talk to the domestic abuse department. When we are connected to the financial aid domestic abuse line, we know something bad is happening, and that we must rescue our victim.” Doe says she is grateful for this opportunity because it gives women a way to be admitted without calling the shelter directly.

Our hope is that women and children can find a safe place to live, with no worry of being found by their abuser, and no worry of not being loved.

“What I believe helps most is online school,” Doe explains. “Surprisingly, this has worked to victim’s benefit. With online school, kids are able to talk to their teacher one on one in a confidential zoom meeting, and there is even a virtual school telephone line that allows for kids to call the school directly through zoom and inform them of their unsafe environment. Another useful way to use online school”, Doe explains, “Is through the teacher’s lens. What I mean buy this is while zoom is often used by kids at home, a teacher is able to monitor consistent fighting, patterns of unhelpful or unavailable parent help, and an unclean or unappealing work environment.” Doe adds, “What catches our eye the most is the lack of a parent’s help to a struggling student. If the parents are home all the time now due to a national suggestion, why do they not have time to help their child? It is a big clue to us that something is up.” Although it is tragic that we as a society should have to go the extra mile to make these lines available to the kid and adult victims, it has become a necessity. 

“Another one of our most useful tactics for getting out of an unhealthy situation during the pandemic is the grocery store.” Doe explains. It is essential for the common person to buy food and other necessities at a supermarket even during a global crisis. “At the grocery store, women often find a phone and ring in to us directly, or through a domestic abuse line they have memorized the number of.” A woman is then able to be picked up and identified at the store and brought to a shelter, escorted by officials. 

At the end of the interview with Doe, she decides to add something she believes has impacted the shelter greatly. “One more thing I would like to recognize is while a victim is running away from her life and creating a new one, with a new identity, it is hard to adjust. With COVID-19 confining a recent runaway or abuse victim to a small space, a toll on mental health is taken.” Doe goes on to explain how the Finex House plans to keep women and children mentally creative as best they can, providing rehabilitation and a source of comfort and warmth, encouraging new hobbies such as exercise and art. “Our hope is that women and children can find a safe place to live, with no worry of being found by their abuser, and no worry of not being loved.” 

Shelters have been given a new meaning this 2020. COVID-19 has made nearly every aspect of running a homeless shelter a challenge, from donations, to volunteering, to even admitting enough people to the shelters. But the Finex House is determined to find a way, and to make a plan ensuring the safety and happiness of their victims, as they’ve always set out to do.