Help Now helping more: New home will better serve domestic violence victims

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  • Help Now Of Osceola Executive Director Tammy Douglass stands in the reception center of the new location at 108 Church St., Kissimmee. News-Gazette Photo/Brian McBride
    Help Now Of Osceola Executive Director Tammy Douglass stands in the reception center of the new location at 108 Church St., Kissimmee. News-Gazette Photo/Brian McBride
  • “Freedom Beach” is just one of five new themed counseling rooms at Help Now of Osceola’s new location. News-Gazette Photo/Brian McBride
    “Freedom Beach” is just one of five new themed counseling rooms at Help Now of Osceola’s new location. News-Gazette Photo/Brian McBride
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With Help Now Of Osceola’s new home in downtown Kissimmee, comes some new amenities that will help to extend its reach to help victims of domestic violence.

So what’s new? There’s a food pantry. There are five themed counseling rooms. And now, it even has its own courtroom.

These are the new additions Help Now of Osceola can now offer domestic violence victims since recently moving into a new office at 108 Church St.

The nonprofit, which also provides a temporary safe shelter for survivors of domestic abuse who are in danger and experience fear of abuse, has a plethora of services to help both adults and children who are victims of violence.

Help Now Executive Director Tammy Douglass said the remodeling of the building (formerly the Osceola News-Gazette office), didn’t come with increased square-footage from its previous home at 1000 W. Emmett Street where it spent eight years.

“It’s literally is more about the layout of the building,” Douglass said. “It’s better use of space.”

The building is now divided in half by a glass door. One side is for domestic violence services, while the other side is for staff. The colors have been changed from the old building “to make it warm and inviting and calming for who’s ever experienced trauma,” Douglass said.

For the first time, Help Now has a food pantry for domestic violence survivors who suffer from food insecurity. They can walk in the office and receive prepackaged bags of food.

“They get about $65 worth of food items,” Douglass said. “This is a brand new opportunity here.”

Venture further into the building and you’ll come across five new themed counseling rooms.

At the former Help Now location, therapy sessions were done in offices, with usually two survivors in the room.

“When you are doing counseling, there might be somebody else sitting there, just not really ideal, warm and private,” Douglass said.

The new rooms are decorated based on different themes. Some of the themes include “Freedom Beach” and “Spiritual Forrest.”

“Each one has a calming theme with manipulatives for nerves and stress and to be able to calm down,” Douglass said.

The lighting can be adjusted in each room and there’s aromatherapy.

Thirdly, there’s also an office that acts like a courtroom where attorneys on staff can have court hearings with judges to help domestic violence victims file for injunctions and order of protections.

“We didn’t have a place where we could hold court sessions at the other building,” Douglass said.

As far as programs, Help Now has support groups for both English and Spanish speakers, educational and job assistance, domestic violence awareness classes, counseling and elder abuse advocates.

At its shelter, victims often come in with nothing, Douglass noted. So they can give them food, clothing, toiletries and transportation opportunities.

It’s services are needed now more than ever because of COVID-19.

“What the pandemic has done by having people isolated and secluded was give rise to domestic violence and the volatility of it,” Douglass said.

Help Now opened its doors on August 15, 1983, as an eight-bed domestic violence shelter. It has since grown from a crisis line to a full-scale domestic abuse prevention program.

In the future, Douglass is hoping to offer a kennel service where victims can bring their pets. Domestic violence and pet abuse often go hand-in-hand and victims are hesitant to leave their pets behind.

“I think it would be a beautiful opportunity moving forward when we have the ability to open a kennel so leaving a pet behind would never stop somebody from leaving an abusive situation,” Douglass said.

If you are living in a domestic abuse situation, and are in fear for your safety, call Help Now of Osceola’s hotline at 407- 847-8562 to speak with an advocate about available options and resources.