TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- When you think of a domestic violence shelter, thoughts of an old worn down building probably come to mind.
But the only domestic violence shelter in the Tri-Cities is bucking that trend by making their building look more like a home.
A woman's and children's shelter operated by Domestic Violence Services of Benton and Franklin Counties has been recognized by the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence for a renovated look that took eight years to complete.
If you hang around Tammy Gilson and her son Skyler you'll see nothing but smiles and laughter. Four years ago, it was bruises and tears. Abused physically, financially, and emotionally, Gilson fled with her son to this shelter.
"It was scary to know that I'm going to bring a child into a shelter, I didn't know what to expect. I never experienced it before," says Gilson.
She worried about the kind of environment she was taking her child to. Thoughts of an old, large, decrepit building filled with strange people was the biggest concern, "It's beautiful. It makes you feel very comfortable. It's a lot nicer than most people's houses and apartments," Gilson adds.
Not knowing what's next is something advocate Erinn Gailey hears often,"It's traumatic for people to leave their home, especially in a moment of crisis."
The shelter sees on average 350 people a year. According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, 1,080 abuse victims were in emergency shelters in Washington State, and 36,332 nationally.
"Just to be able to do normal family things to watch TV, to play with their children, to cook a meal with their family," says Gilson.
Families stay in the shelter for 30 days. During that time, advocates are working to clients to set them up with more permanent housing. After Gilson left the shelter, she noticed changes not just in herself but also in her son, who laughs and plays more now than she can remember,"It was a place for us to heal, a comfort zone for both of us a safety."