One in three people will experience domestic abuse at the hands of their partner during their lifetime. Locally, Harbor House of Central Florida, Orange County’s only state-certified domestic violence shelter, works tirelessly toward eliminating this statistic.
The organization opened its doors in 1976 as a safe haven for survivors of domestic abuse. It has transformed into one of the most comprehensive abuse prevention and intervention centers in the country that features a variety of services that ensures all family members will be safe as they heal.
Harbor House provides safety, shelter, counseling, education, advocacy and justice. In addition to operating a 24-hour, 110-bed emergency shelter for women, men, children and animal survivors of family violence, the organization also provides children’s services, community outreach, community and professional education, and legal advocacy services. Harbor House is committed to its community promise of never turning away a survivor who seeks safety.
In 2012, Harbor House expanded its 5-acre campus to include the Paws for Peace Kennel, which has been a transition home for hundreds of dogs, cats, birds, fish, turtles and guinea pigs. Many domestic violence survivors delay leaving their abusers out of fear of what will happen to their pets, and the kennel ensures no family member is left behind in an abusive home. In fact, it serves as a national model for on-site kenneling at domestic violence shelters.
With everything Harbor House team members and volunteers do, the all-encompassing goal is social change at the individual and system-wide levels. Through its philosophy of Recognize, Respond & Refer (R3), Harbor House teaches individuals, businesses, schools, faith institutions and first responders how to recognize the signs of domestic abuse, respond effectively and refer survivors to safety.
If you or anyone you know might be experiencing domestic abuse, please call the 24-hour, confidential hotline at 407-886-2856 (local) or 800-500-1119 (state-wide).
How You Can Help:
1. Donate. Give a monetary donation where it’s needed most and help a survivor in crisis.
2. Volunteer on your own or with a group. Opportunities include assisting with fundraisers, becoming a social media ambassador and participating in playtime in the childcare center.
3. Participate in one of the organization’s annual fundraising events such as the Paws for Peace Walk on April 18 and Handbags for Hope on May 14.