On a typical day, domestic violence hotlines receive approximately 21,000 calls, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. That’s an average of 15 calls every minute.

“If it wasn’t for Catholic Charities’ women and children shelter programs, I would’ve ended up back with my abuser or on the streets,” said Debbie, who escaped an abusive relationship after 10 years. “The programs assisted me in gaining my independence from the beginning through the end. I was provided shelter for myself and my children as I got my life in order, and became financially independent.”

Finding safety and more

Dozens of women like Debbie, looking to escape abusive homes, or others who have never been abused but are food insecure, experiencing homelessness, or in need of work, eventually find their way to Catholic Charities programs like My Sister’s Place Women’s Center. The center is Baltimore City’s longest-serving day shelter and resource center for women and children experiencing homelessness and poverty.

“This summer, with the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw an average of 50 women per meal, and five to 10 children,” said Julie Martin, volunteer manager at My Sister’s Place.

The pandemic is prompting more residents to look to shelters, not only for housing, but to feed their families on a daily basis. Feeding America reports a 50-percent increase in the number of people visiting food banks across the country. That is why community support for shelters like My Sister’s Place is so critical. For the past 38 years, this program has been able to operate and support the community, thanks in part to donors and volunteers.

Help from friends

Local restaurants play a huge role as well. Sammy’s Trattoria pledged to donate chicken Parmesan dinners through the end of the year, while Nando’s Peri-Peri agreed to donate 50 meals for dinner. Another organization known as Who is Hussain recently made a donation of 50 meals. That group empowers communities around the world to organize charitable events for the common good.

The organization Who is Hussain donated 50 meals to My Sister’s Place.

“I have received a lot of feedback from staff that ‘word on the street’ has spread about the food we are getting,” said Martin. “I think we strike a really great balance – a catered meal is always a nice treat. Many clients can’t remember the last time they ate at a restaurant, so of course that’s an exciting time. But there’s also a lot of great home cooked donations that we get from our really dedicated meal groups. And I’m pretty sure the clients have started figuring out the schedule for the regulars so they know when to come get their favorites.”

As the pandemic hit Maryland, My Sister’s Place Women’s Center immediately suspended on-site volunteering to protect health. Staffers relied on what they had and gathered supplies and donations to make meals portable. However, the community response has been incredible, as the program continues to provide to-go lunch and dinner services throughout the pandemic.

My Sister’s Place does more than assist women and children with food and shelter. If you know anyone in need of domestic abuse services, please call (667) 600-3700.