When Hope Must HIde
Building on Hope, a remarkable effort that began in a conference room here at our offices, has a new extreme makeover project — but for this one, the location has to remain a secret.
The building looks like so many other old residences situated near Concord’s downtown — too large for today’s shrinking families but still useful. The original builders would be fascinated by the high-tech security measures, sensors and cameras mounted at every entrance. Sadly, they would also probably understand the threats that necessitated them. It’s not a new problem.
In a seemingly unrelated note, there will be a comical sight on the afternoon of October 4 as men line up in downtown Concord to run a mile-long race — in women’s heels. There’s something funny about a man wearing a business suit and stilettos, but there’s nothing funny about the reason behind the scene.
The “reason” and connection between these two scenarios is the Crisis Center of Central NH (CCCNH), which offers a home for women with children who are seeking shelter from an abusive partner.
To be more precise, these are women who are most likely fleeing from their homes — leaving behind friends and personal belongings — because a man, often the father of their children, is a serious danger to them. Frequently the violence has gone on for years and has worsened until the only option is to run and hide. So, imagine these women as refugees fleeing deadly enemies from war zones within their own country and you’ll have an idea of what they face every day.
Building on Hope is not designed to solve problems like that. Providing a therapeutic safe haven for families is more than most volunteers can manage, so we (I’m on the steering committee) leave that to the caring professionals. What we can do is rally the professionals of the construction, design and building materials industries to provide a lavish, improved structure and new equipment to transform the place where an organization such as CCCNH provides residential services. Once Building on Hope is done, they’ll not only have more living space beautifully designed for their mission, they will also have the inspiration and resources needed to dream about new ways to assist clients, to engage problems earlier on and to ultimately improve outcomes.
That’s what’s happened over the last decade at previous Building on Hope projects, including the Briggs Center for the Manchester Police Athletic League, the training hub for Opportunity Networks of Amherst, the Girls Inc. program facility in Manchester and the Easterseals NH Krol House for boys.
That’s what we hope will happen for CCCNH because, among all the contemporary horrors that we face at home and abroad, this one should and can be fixed. The nightmare reality that too many women and children face — being terrorized and attacked within their own homes by the same person who should be guarding and comforting them — is an unacceptable fact.
The men choosing to “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” this month are in the vanguard of the solution simply by openly acknowledging the realities of domestic violence. Far too many of us are friends with either a victim or a perpetrator of such crimes. By doing something bold and, yes, a little silly, these men are drawing attention to, and starting conversations about, a problem that requires secrecy to exist.
And as long as domestic abuse is only spoken about in whispers, that old unmarked house near downtown Concord will require a high level of secrecy just to remain safe.