Rocky Gonzalez, left, chairman of the Phelan Safehouse Campaign, Luisa Caiazzo, CEO of SARC, and Tom Phelan, Chesapeake Employers' Insurance Co. CEO, meet on behalf of the new Phelan House project.
Rocky Gonzalez, left, chairman of the Phelan Safehouse Campaign, Luisa Caiazzo, CEO of SARC, and Tom Phelan, Chesapeake Employers' Insurance Co. CEO, meet on behalf of the new Phelan House project.

SARC, Harford County's resource for victims of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse and stalking is undertaking a campaign to design and build a model facility based on research that dignifies survivors and provides them with a welcoming, secure environment that will replace SARC's century-old facility.

The new facility will allow them the ability to regain their independence with self-determination. The project will apply new and compelling research into the design of the safehouse and will help victims heal and recover their lives.

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The project will include:

Abundant daylight and views to the outdoors to promote wellness.

Clear sightlines which will allow parents to supervise their children without being in the same physical space.

Spaces so families can eat together. Reclaiming family meal time – preparing food and sitting down to a meal together with one's child(ren) can be an important part of healing from abuse for adults and children. The reconnection at the end of the day can strengthen parent-child bonds.

A fully fenced backyard, generously sized parking garage, and security system which will make the house feel safe.

Outside play areas that allow for exercise, which helps alleviate stress and provides opportunities for children to appreciate nature.

The current safehouse provides a safe place for victims of domestic violence, sexual violence and stalking to make the journey from victim to survivor with 24-hour shelter, support, advocacy, crisis intervention and case management . The current safehouse facility, however, is in a converted building, which is more than 100 years old, that was not designed with clients in mind.

Although victims are grateful to have a safe place to go, it is not able to provide the space or features required to empower clients and their families to heal and successfully re-build their lives.

The current location only provides for female victims and children. Male victims must be housed off site without 24/7 support. There are 28 clients in 7 bedrooms with 3 shared bathrooms and one kitchen table that must be shared by all. Shades must be drawn at all times and there is no play area either inside or out for the children.

SARC's safehouse hosts more than 200 clients a year and last year, 107 of them were children.

Research suggests crowded communal living conditions cause: reduced graduation rates for youth; delays in children's cognitive development –particularly in children ages 1-5; increased blood pressure; increased feelings of hopelessness; impaired parent-child relationships; and increased psychological distress. (Center for Housing Policy Study, July 2007)

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