Fire Damages Shelter for Battered Women
An early morning fire Tuesday temporarily closed an emergency shelter for battered women.
“It started upstairs about seven this morning,” said Anne Friesen, director of Friend-to-Friend. “A smoke detector upstairs went off, and then a few minutes later one went off downstairs.”
Nobody was injured in the blaze which devastated the interior of the upper floor, but left the home in reparable condition. Friesen credits quick response by the Carthage Volunteer Fire Department.
“If they had been 10 minutes later, it would all have been gone,” she said. “Another blessing is that, up until a few days ago, we were full.”
The shelter – Serenity House – held 18 victims recently, almost all of whom had moved on to new homes and jobs. Only two abused women remained, with two children. At the time the fire started that boy and girl were already on their bus heading for school.
“They don’t know about the fire yet,” Friesen said in a brief telephone interview. “We won’t tell them until we know where they will be and have someone to help them.”
Friend-to-Friend started 20 years ago to help victims of domestic violence and sexual assault rebuild their lives. It offers guidance, maintains a 24-hour crisis line (910-947-3333) and support groups, has programs for children, provides court advocacy, court and hospital accompaniment and community education.
For now, the two women and two children who had been with Friend-to-Friend will be staying in protected settings in other counties. The location of Serenity House is not public.
“The abuser of one of these women is still looking for her,” Friesen said. “He found her at another shelter before.”
North Carolina ranks fourth in the country in the level of domestic violence, according to Friesen. While Serenity House was insured, it had just finished a major renovation done by volunteers.
Now all that is gone.
“The upstairs will have to be entirely gutted,” she said. “We will rebuild.”
Serenity House provides a safe residence where victims are given the opportunity and the support to heal physically and emotionally from the abuse of domestic violence and sexually assault, according to the nonprofit’s website http://www.moorefriends.org.
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