A St. Albans domestic violence survivor shelter celebrates 20 years of serving Franklin County. The Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity’s Voices Against Violence program opened the doors to Laurie’s House in 2002. It serves as a place domestic violence victims can find somewhere safe to stay.

Laurie’s House stands at an undisclosed location, but staff say the secret address makes it safer for victims. Executive Director of the CVOEO Paul Dragon said, “think about every adult and every child over the past 20 years that have passed through the doors of Laurie’s House.”

Since its beginning, Voices Against Violence at Laurie’s House has helped 1,218 adults and children. Director of the program Kris Lukens noted, “we’ve come a long way in 20 years.” She explained the origin of the name; “we named the shelter in honor of a Franklin County woman who was killed by her partner, and we honor her by calling the shelter Laurie’s House, it seemed fitting.”

Lukens added, people in crisis often depend on Laurie’s House. Sarah Phillips, the director of the Vermont Office of Economic Opportunity stresses the need for non-profits to serve at the local level. “We need public-private partnerships,” she said. She thanks the team for their “good work to meet the changing and unfortunately growing needs in the area, and to do it with such hope and light.”

Staff members noted, the pandemic brought on an increased need for services for domestic violence victims. Advocacy Coordinator with Voices Against Violence Shannon McMahon said, “we know that survival makes people resilient in ways they should never have had to be, for adults and children, trauma that creates violence is held in the body and it takes a lot to heal from.”

McMahon says the organization tries to make Laurie’s House feel like a home. It has a playroom, living space, dining room, and a quiet space. “From the bedding, to the lighting, to the artwork on the walls,” she said, “we try to make the survivors that stay at Laurie’s House have the welcome they observe.”

According to the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, every year, there’s over 40,000 victims of this kind of violence in the state. But, research shows, most survivors don’t report their abuse. Voices Against Violence hopes to keep serving for another 20 years, and beyond.