Recently, we introduced you to Shirin, one of our long-time Women’s Counsellor Advocates. Each month, we’ll be shadowing Shirin to give you an idea of what a day’s work is like as a counsellor at Interval House.
Today, during Shirin’s shift, she’s completing an intake with a new resident. “Intake” is what we call the process of accepting a new resident into the shelter. It involves a pre-screening over the phone, arranging the details of a woman’s move into the shelter, and more detailed interviews shortly after the woman moves in.
A woman (we’ll call her Lani) called the crisis line in the early hours of the morning yesterday. Often, women call Interval House and a counsellor like Shirin can help them plan a safe time to leave their abuser – it could be hours or days later when the best time arises.
But for Lani, this wasn’t an option. She had already fled from her home with her two daughters. Not knowing where else to go, she had gone to her local neighbourhood centre, where she got the number for Interval House.
After speaking with Lani on the phone, Shirin gave her the information she needed to move into the shelter, and an hour later, here she and her daughters were, at our front door.
The girls didn’t even have any shoes or socks on. “There was no time,” Lani tells Shirin. “I was so scared.”
Shirin brought Lani and the girls inside, and the first step is for them to sit down and do a basic intake. Shirin got copies of their IDs, she explained the house rules like respect and inclusion, and asked Lani some basic questions about her history. Then she took them on a tour, giving them keys to their new bedroom.
Because the family was still dealing with the shock of what had happened, they only went through the basics yesterday. Within the first three days, though, all new residents need to do a more detailed intake interview. Lani feels ready today, and so Shirin meets with her to go through the full process. She asks her questions about her past, about the abuse. It’s difficult to speak about, but for Shirin to be able to best help her, she needs to know what’s Lani’s been through and what kind of supports she needs.
Shirin will now become Lani’s case manager for the remainder of her stay at Interval House. Together, in this first meeting, they put together a case plan, determining what the family needs and how Shirin can help them achieve these needs. If they need legal services, Shirin can help them with referrals and getting Legal Aid; if they need financial assistance she can refer them to the right place. For any of the services Lani needs for her daughters, such as school, daycare, or counselling, she’ll meet separately with Elizabeth, one of our Children’s Counsellor Advocates.
The first few days of Lani’s stay might feel like a whirlwind. But she has plenty of time during her stay at Interval House to step back and process what’s going on. Most women stay at our centre for 3-4 months, and so Lani and Shirin have lots of time still to make sure that she’s equipped to start her new life, free from violence.
For the next few months, we’ll be giving you a glimpse into Shirin’s work, taking you step-by-step through a day in the life of a counsellor at Interval House. Stay tuned for the next part in our series, when we follow Shirin through an individual counselling session with a new resident.