United Way at Work: Help Now of Osceola

Heart of Florida United Way

Tammy Douglass, Executive Director of Help Now of Osceola, feels the importance of her work every day.

“We call ourselves the Help Now Family,” said Douglass. “We’re helping people, we’re saving lives. We’re agents of social change.”

Indeed, Help Now of Osceola’s United-Way funded Domestic Violence Prevention Program is focused on changing the cycle of abuse. The shelter is the hallmark of the program, offering a safe living space for women and children feeling threatened or in danger.

One case stands out vividly in Tammy’s mind: the story of a young woman named Jane. After moving to the area, her boyfriend had beaten her so badly her jaw had to be wired shut. Furthermore, Jane’s landlord was trying to bill her for the blood stains left in the apartment after what her abuser had done. Jane made the decision to seek help and called Help Now of Osceola, who admitted her into the shelter. Once there, Jane met with counselors to go over her situation and discuss how it impacted her emotionally. Legal advocates worked on her behalf to clear things up with Jane’s landlord and to serve an injunction against her abuser. As she progressed, Jane entered the Help Now of Osceola’s Job Club to learn new employability skills. With the help of the program, Jane was able to get a new apartment on her own, find employment and she continues to heal emotionally.

Now in safe housing, Jane is self-sufficient. Moreover, she knows more about what a healthy relationship looks like and has an increased knowledge of the warning signs of domestic violence. Thanks to Help Now of Osceola and United Way, Jane is able to get a fresh start on life.

The shelter has 52 beds, but Help Now of Osceola’s policy is to never turn anyone away who needs help. Working creatively to make space or by working with partners, they will find a safe haven for anyone who needs it. Many people come to the shelter through referrals from 2-1-1, United Way’s Information and Assistance Helpline.

The shelter is more than just a place to sleep. For those who seek help, individuals are at the shelter anywhere from just a night or two to six months. Many come to the shelter only with the clothes on their backs. After they arrive at the shelter, they get comprehensive support to help them rebuild their lives. From securing identification documents, building a career wardrobe and learning new job skills, Help Now of Osceola helps these individuals reintegrate into society and become self-sustaining.

Staffed by just 21 incredibly dedicated people, Help Now of Osceola has tremendous impact, helping 200 women and children a year through the United Way-funded program alone.

For more information about Help Now of Osceola, please visit their website. To find out more about United Way’s work in the community in the areas of education, income, health and basic needs, please visit www.hfuw.org.