Kodiak Women’s Resource & Crisis Center goes the distance

Penny Lampl, Rebecca Shields and Melissa Austin of the Kodiak Women’s Resource and Crisis Center review administrative documents that help guide them in their work. They run a 25-bed shelter, as well as offer support services for women in crisis.

The Kodiak Women’s Resource & Crisis Center started in 1978 with humble beginnings, after a few concerned residents saw a need to help.

“They had a crisis line in a closet at St. James the Fisherman (Episcopal) Church,” says Rebecca Shields, executive director of the crisis center. “The city later donated the building that is currently our shelter; we’ve been there since 1985.”

Today, the resource and crisis center has grown alongside Kodiak Island, serving a much larger population and offering what Shields describes as “wraparound” services. Included are a 25-bed shelter, administrative offices and an outreach and education building for working with the public. In 2019, 74 women and 32 children were served, and 309 additional clients were helped outside of the shelter service.

“We know a lot more now than we did when I first started here,” said Shields, who has worked just about every position at the shelter since starting there in 1990. “We used to be much more siloed – we’d help with one aspect of a client’s need and then we passed them on down through the system.”

Today, thanks in part to $30,000 in support from Providence Health & Services Alaska, Shields says the center can help a client from the moment of first contact all the way through whatever other services they may need. Those needs might start with something as immediate as shelter from an abusive relationship or help feeding children. But oftentimes, the challenges run deeper than a place to sleep.

“We are much more client-centered, because we’ve learned that these are whole people who don’t have one particular type of problem, but often multiple problems – they need people that can understand the whole picture and help guide them through the process of getting back on track.”

As the work she does has evolved, Shields says she is slowly seeing progress. When a client comes in, their story is rarely uncomplicated. Domestic violence and sexual assault is often, but not always, tied with substance abuse or mental health crises – sometimes both together. 

“There aren’t any easy fixes, because these people have been traumatized,” she says. “Still, I absolutely love my job because I am honored enough to be on the helping end of these issues. I’m seeing the growth and the impact of what we do for peoples’ lives – it does work. It just takes time, and every client is different.”

Shields, now 30 years into her career with the center, says she sometimes assists the grown children of former clients. That is a trend she hopes – and prays – can be stopped with the help of donations such as Providence’s.

“We are so grateful for this $30,000 a year,” she says. “It has really been a lifesaver. If we can really continue to work collaboratively with professionals in the field, and let clients know they are not alone, I am hoping that in another 20 years their children will be in a better place because we’ve got to stop the cycle.” 

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