Security not secrecy
By Eileen Persike
Tri-County Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault is looking forward to a moving day that has been a couple of years in the making. The former Marshfield Clinic building on Country Drive (Hwy 47 near River Street) on Rhinelander’s west side has been undergoing renovation and is nearly ready to open its doors as Lily’s House, putting shelter services and the shelter under one roof.
Lily’s House is named after 93-year old Lily Kongslien, a Rhinelander resident who only recently retired following 25 years of service to Tri-County Council. According to Executive Director Shellie Holmes, Lily’s passion and personal mission was to help provide a safe place for victims who needed to flee from a dangerous home and find compassion and understanding, and a way to start over.
It’s important to Holmes, too, that this new facility be warm and welcoming.
“We have the basics to make this house safe and secure and now we’d like to invite others to help furnish it to be as beautiful, comfortable and dignified as any of our own homes,” she said. “We wanted to make sure it is a place where, when people walk in they say, ‘wow, whew…I am so glad to be here.’”
Bedrooms, living areas, play areas, bathrooms and offices are up for “adoption” by community members or groups.
“We’re hoping that people will come in and say, ‘we’ll take care of this room’ and make it homey, less utilitarian.”
Lily’s House will have six bedrooms, some spacious enough to accommodate the growing trend of having larger families staying at the shelter, two full bathrooms and a couple of half baths, laundry facilities, a family friendly kitchen complete with new stainless steel appliances, shared living areas and quiet spaces and a fenced in back yard. The openness of the home was designed with another trend in mind.
“When I started (working at Tri-County) eleven years ago, the average stay for a family was about two weeks; now I would say it’s about four to six weeks,” Holmes said. “That’s when the whole dynamic of communal living changes. After a long period of time it’s important that not only do they start meeting some of their goals, whether it’s going back to school or getting a job, or finding a place to live— but that we empower them to move on.” In the meantime, the size and flow of Lily’s House allows freedom of movement as well as comfortable space to be alone.
State of the art security, from locks to cameras is a cornerstone of the new philosophy that has evolved for shelters, ‘security, not secrecy.’
“It’s important that the community knows and is aware of the shelter,” Holmes said. “They are the eyes and ears of safety, sending a message to perpetrators of abuse that our community supports victims.”
After housing the shelter more than 25 years at their location on Balsam Street, Holmes added that most people in town knows it’s there; cab drivers, fire, police, pizza delivery – it’s not a secret.
The community is invited to contact Holmes during the week at 715-362-6841, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. to make an appointment to view and tour the new facility prior to the opening of the shelter, which is expected to be as early as August 1. Holmes said she hope that many community groups and individuals who have supported the organization in the past will come forward to help make the new shelter a home. “The people – women, men, children and families who need the shelter services Lily’s House provides, deserve peace and respect during their time of need – no one chooses to be abused.”