Woman faces challenges while seeking shelter during COVID-19 pandemic

HARRISON COUNTY, W.Va. (WDTV)-- This week, Governor Jim Justice issued a stay-at-home order as the coronavirus spreads.

People believe this is the safest place to be, but for all too many, home is the last place they feel safe to go.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by their partner, and one in four women and one in nine men experience some form of physical or mental violence.

One local woman is a part of this national statistic.

“I was in an abusive marriage and I left that, and I ended up in a shelter for abused women,” she said.

A week later, she was told to leave after her pet tortoise was discovered in her room. She left and picked up her puppy from a friend, unsure of where to go.

“I was kind of out on the street with no where to go, trying to figure out what to do with my animals and myself,” she said.

With people self distancing, many resources were closed or couldn’t provide help.

“It’s pretty scary,” she said. “Everybody tells you that if you’re in an abusive relationship to just leave, that you will be able to get help.”

Unfortunately, the amount of help she has received from the organizations she’s reached out to have been little to none, leaving her to feel hopeless, until she met Whitney Eagle.

“If it hadn’t been for her I would have been sleeping on the sidewalk,” she said.

“I wasn’t going to let this woman sleep on the streets,” Eagle said.

Together they reached out to churches and tried to stay in contact with the different organizations, hoping to be lead in a positive direction or given an answer.

Churches had no answers and the different organizations continued to lead her nowhere with misleading information or discriminatory acts. She says she knew others in her position were being helped and given choices that weren’t suggested to her. When Eagle heard her story, she says she was heart broken.

“It makes me ashamed of these people that I’ve known,” Eagle said. “Some of these churches that I’ve helped or gone to, and thought that I knew some people who were in there that should, or have at least always portrayed to me, that this is the kind of love that they would give someone,” she said.

WDTV reached out and tried to get ahold of someone from each facility to find out what women should do if they are facing this situation, but with many people taking precaution, we were unable to get speak with anyone.

However, the Centre to End Violence against Women and Girls listed these alternative facilities that may help:

- Safe homes or networks.
- Emergency safe spaces.
- Confidential private accommodations.
- Sanctuary schemes.

Although even with these options, they state that not all communities may have them, which leave many women still standing alone.