One in four women in the United States will experience domestic abuse during their lifetime. Locally, Harbor House of Central Florida, Orange County’s only state-certified domestic violence shelter, works tirelessly to fight this epidemic.
The organization opened its doors in 1976 as a safe haven for survivors of domestic abuse. Under the leadership of CEO Carol Wick, the organization has transformed into one of the most comprehensive abuse prevention and intervention centers in the country.
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, it has expanded to provide children’s services, community outreach, community and professional education, and legal advocacy services. Last year, Harbor House helped more than 9,000 survivors through its hotline, shelter and advocacy services and reached an additional 24,000 people through its education and outreach events.
Harbor House is also one of seven domestic violence centers in Florida that includes a kennel. The Paws for Peace Kennel opened three years ago and has been the transition home for more than 100 dogs, cats, birds, fish, turtles and guinea pigs. In fact, up to 48 percent of domestic violence survivors delay leaving their abusers out of fear of what will happen to their pets. The kennel ensures no family member is left behind in an abusive home.
Harbor House also created the R3 app to encourage healthcare professionals and those at risk to Recognize, Respond and Refer (R3) to domestic abuse. While it was designed for medical settings, Harbor House recognized that those in abusive relationships might utilize the tool. This free and easy-to-download app, which can be used nationwide, asks users four simple questions and then for the zip code of the survivor’s residence to provide the closest state-certified domestic abuse center.
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. Harbor House is running a capital campaign to build a new state-of-the art shelter, which will further help those seeking protection.
2. Raise awareness through Harbor House’s social media pages.
3. Get your family, friends and workplace involved by participating in any of Harbor House’s yearly events.