So there we were on the plane finally escaping what had felt like nearly two years of being trapped in the Bristol Bay area. The plane glided over the vast tundra in between King Salmon and Anchorage. We saw majestic snow covered mountains and landscapes that were simply beautiful. A little ways outside of Anchorage we hit a big bump as it were. The air traffic controller had accidentally routed us through the jet wash of a huge jet which made for one huge bump? drop? of several feet. But otherwise it was a beautiful flight into our new life.
We arrived in Anchorage, deplaned and claimed our luggage. My sister-in-law was there to meet us, the first time she had met Glenna 😀 We gathered our things and headed off to our new home. We arrived at the shelter to a warm welcome. This shelter, like most domestic violence shelters, was a secure and safe facility. We were buzzed into the main reception area. Then taken to an office where we had to go through some more paperwork but thankfully the advocate realized that the girls really just needed to get settled and put off finishing the paperwork until later.
She led us from the reception/office area back into the main shelter through another locked door. The shelter was equipped with multiple alarm systems and the parking lot and front door were under constant camera surveilence. We went down a hallway, there was a room to the left with 3 large windows looking into the hallway that was labeled childrens playroom, there were stairs leading up on the left, lockers and a soda machine against one wall, and a child type gate leading back into the main shelter living area.
We passed through the gate and I was surprised how big the common area was. First we passed through a large dining area, to the living room/common area. We were shown our room, there were 8 rooms total in this shelter. Four upstairs and four downstairs. Each room was able to hold four people making the shelter capacity 32. Our room had a bunk bed, and then a twin size bed with a trundle underneath. There was two large dressers, a closet, and built in shelves. There was a door leading to the bathroom that we’d share with one other room.
We were given a tour. Downstairs was also the large kitchen and fully stocked pantry including four upright freezers and two large refrigerators. There were two office spaces where the advocates worked and an additional communal bathroom. The living room had two couches, two loveseats, two big huge comfy chairs, a large flat screen TV with DVD and VHS player and a large managerie of VHS tapes, two coffee tables, six end tables and one one wall there was a built-in book case full of childrens books with a huge toy box underneath full of toys. The other wall had the same built-in book case filled with adult books and more videos and some phone books.
The wall by the advocates main office had a bulletin board that had tons of postings with resources and information. There was a large picture window in the living room that looked out into the highly fenced back yard. This was February so there was a lot snow back there. We were shown in order to exit the shelter we would need to go out this back area.
We then brought back our luggage and I changed the girls and set them loose to explore their new temporary home. The girls were happy to be free of the airplane, they immediately stretched their legs. OOh wait Glenna wasn’t walking yet now was she? She was crawling still, and wasn’t quite as quick as her sister but still explored.
I watched them through our bedroom door and did some unpacking. The advocate brought bedding and a crib for Glenna. I made our beds, and did some of the unpacking. Then I went to find the girls something to eat. Since we were dairy free this was not an easy task.
Residents are required to prepare dinner for the entire shelter once a week and that night dinner happened to be macaroni and cheese, sigh dairy filled, well that won’t work. Also I didn’t have any soy milk and couldn’t go to the store because I didn’t have carseats for the girls. Thankfully there were two advocates on duty and one of them ran to the store for us and got some soy milk and also McDonalds (this was before I realized McD’s french fries had milk products on them).
We had chicken nuggets and french fries for dinner. Then it was nearly 7 p.m. aka bedtime for the girls. I put their pj’s on them and ushered them off to bed. Despite the fact that this was all new to them they had had such a long day they both went to sleep without much of a struggle.
So the girls are asleep and I am wide awake despite the long day of traveling. I go to the advocates office and ask if we can finish up paperwork. She is amazed that my girls are already in bed, I explain to her that they always have a 7 p.m. bedtime so that I can have some “me” time everyday in order to keep my sanity LOL.
I sat down with the advocate and completed the necessary paperwork. She went over the rules which included resident curfew, chores, program plan etc. Each resident is not only required to prepare one dinner a week for the shelter but also has a chore to complete everyday. We were expected to clean up after ourselves, take care of our children and work on our program plans. Not too much to expect I don’t think since we were there receiving shelter, food and clothing. The shelter has a clothes closet that accepts massive amounts of donation for community and residents are able to sort through these donations and get any clothing that we might need.
One of the primary rules of the shelter is confidentiality. We must always maintain confidentiality. What happens at the shelter stays at the shelter. Who stays at the shelter is confidential. This is in order to maintain the safety of everyone at the shelter. Residents at a domestic violence shelter are there for one reason…to escape domestic violence. This is their safe haven, a place where we can escape our perpetrators. If strict confidentiality isn’t maintained then perpetrators could endanger the safety of not only their victims but of every resident there.
I made some calls and let others know that I had arrived safely. I made arrangements with a friend to come get us the next day and take us to Walmart to get carseats and me a new cell phone since my Bristol Bay cellphone didn’t work there. I finished all the paperwork including my program plan which laid out my goals and how I would go about reaching them. The advocate joked that she thought I was the first resident to have a complete file within the first 24 hours of arriving at the shelter.
I was excited, I was motivated and ready to do whatever it took to move forward with our lives. I went to bed that night feeling safe and secure albeit in a totally new environment, new town, and completely foreign environment.
The day had started in Bristol Bay feeling trapped, scared and so ready to move on and finished in our new area, safe and secure ready to take on whatever might come, ready to start over again and make a new life for me and the girls!
To be continued….