In a play-room plastered in color with the names and hand prints of children who lived inside and a room full of games where teenagers can find peace and quiet, DOVES of Gateway helps families get their lives back on track while searching for a place to call their own.

DOVES, a shelter for victims of domestic violence, held an open house May 29 for the public to see what the organization has to offer.

“It’s hard enough. We want to make sure they have everything they need,” said Mary Walker, an employee at DOVES.

The shelter accepts men, women and children who have been in a domestic violence situation that has left them with nowhere to live. While many people are under the impression that men are not accepted in DOVES, there is an average of one man per year who lives on site.

“It’s not a gender thing. If you’re a victim, you’re a victim. We don’t discriminate,” said Jackie Demmon, a child advocate at DOVES.

Demmon helps children feel more at home through playing games and helping parents find new techniques to better their parenting skills. She said that although the shelter is a safe place to be where no one can hurt them, being in a place that is not their own home puts stress on both the children and the adults.

The average stay at the shelter is 30 days, but some individuals or families stay for only one night, and some stay for nearly a year. As long as there is a need for shelter, DOVES provides safety.

“We don’t kick anyone out because they’ve been here too long,” said Demmon.

To gain access to the shelter, victims of domestic violence are urged to call 1-800-221-4361 to request entry. Police officers escort all victims to the shelter to ensure that no one is being followed and that no one can enter the shelter without notice.

The shelter can hold 28 people and has housed families with up to nine or 10 children.

Employees can help victims with clothing, transportation and getting an Emergency Protective Order against their abuser.

“They think because there are no bruises, it’s not abuse,” said Demmon.

Many victims of abuse are not aware they are being abused. DOVES supports victims of both physical and mental abuse.

To contact DOVES for business, call 784-6880, or for crisis 1-800-221-4361.

Daneyl Tackett can be reached at dtackett@themoreheadnews.com or by telephone at 784-4116.