The number of area residents seeking shelter because of domestic violence is on track to exceed last year, when the shelter had its highest usage in five years.
So far this year, Turning Point Domestic Violence Services in Columbus has housed 264 adults and children at its 25-bed shelter in Columbus, compared with 268 in all of 2014.
Turning Point officials are unsure whether the higher demand means more residents are in need of help or more are learning about the local services available, according to Lisa Shafran, the organization’s president.
A new report by the Domestic Violence Network looks at data, calls and services provided to residents in central Indiana who are victims of domestic violence.
Bartholomew County numbers are not included in that report.
But the data show that calls for assistance to multiple agencies were up last year in central Indiana by nearly 10 percent and reached more than 20,000 calls. Not included in that number are calls to the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s statewide hotline.
The report also looks at the number of people who died due to domestic violence, which totaled 17 in central Indiana in 2014.
About 3 to 4 percent of local domestic violence victims are seeking shelter when they call for help, Shafran said. But when they do call, Turning Point makes sure it can help, she said.
For example, when the shelter used by Turning Point in Bartholomew County recently was full, officials did not turn down a request to provide temporary housing for four people, Shafran said.
“We will find whatever means we need to keep people safe,” she said.
Sometimes that means converting a common area in the shelter to a sleeping area, she said. Turning Point also works with other community agencies outside Bartholomew County that might have space when it is needed.
The last resort is to place people in hotels, but shelter staff prefer to keep anyone asking for help at the shelter for safety reasons and to be able to provide services to them at the shelter, she said.
“We always find a way,” Shafran said.
However, finding a way to find space particularly when the shelter is over capacity does come with financial challenges, Shafran said. The shelter must keep staff on overtime hours, and there are additional costs for food and supplies when the shelter is over capacity for longer periods of time, she said.
In some areas where agencies have fewer resources and shelter is more of a need, victims may stay longer because of lack of affordable housing elsewhere, Domestic Violence Network executive director Kelly McBride said.
Bartholomew County numbers show that so far this year, the Columbus Turning Point shelter has provided 4,149 nights of shelter, compared with 4,602 in 2014.
The Domestic Violence Network is doing training in schools, businesses and community agencies about the signs of domestic violence, including less obvious means such as jealousy, controlling behavior and animal cruelty.
“So many people think of domestic violence as black eyes and bruises, but it’s so much more than that,” McBride said.
Annie Goeller, assistant managing editor for the Daily Journal of Franklin, a sister publication of The Tribune, contributed to this story.
Crisis hotline: 1-800-221-6311
Service area: The 25-bed Turning Point emergency shelter serves a seven-county area including Bartholomew, Brown, Decatur, Jackson, Jennings, Johnson and Shelby counties.