Keeping “Happy” in “Happy Holidays”


The holiday season is a time of the year that is often filled with joy and cheer, but for survivors spending their holiday in a shelter, it can be a hard, and stressful time. Spending the holidays in an unfamiliar place that is not home and is not with family, is tough as many of us consider both of those to be pillars of the holidays. Traditions can be hard to follow through with, hosting guests for a party is not an option, even simple things such as decorating or holiday baking can lose their magic when you are not in your own kitchen.  Already this December, we have provided safe shelter to over 100 women and children. Our staff and volunteers do our best to try to make our shelter space a home for every survivor that stays with us. For children and teens staying in our shelter, our Children and Youth Advocates will plan activities, crafts, events, etc. to help bring fun, joy, and laughter to kids. We will have cookie baking and decorating, holiday crafts, Christmas tree decorating, a holiday movie night, and more that encourage children and their parents to enjoy time together. For our adults, we will also plan activities such as crafts, ornament making, and baking during support groups. Experiencing the holidays in trauma and in a shelter is not a way that anyone pictures their holiday, but we are so happy to be able to keep survivors safe. 

After a holiday we will typically see an increase in those need our services. One of the reasons we see an increase is because protective parents will try to wait until after the holidays to try and give their kids a happy holiday before their life changes drastically by leaving an abusive home. It is very difficult to attempt to leave an abusive relationship at any time, but the holidays are extra hard especially for kids. Unfortunately, as we know at Harbor House, that holidays can accelerate abusive behavior due to alcohol, family, and extra stress. This is why we often see an increase of families needing shelter on Christmas Eve and Chrismas Day. The parent tries to stay for the kids, but then things will get violent and they are forced to leave during the holiday.

“We are always prepared for new families to need to come into shelter between December 23-26th. We wrap extra gifts, decorate our space and keep a warm holiday environment so we can welcome them with not only safety, but with holiday cheer.” Tracy Plamann, Harbor House’s Community Education Coordinator 

The holidays are a time of giving, here at Harbor House we are not only here at the holidays but all-year-round to provide services, support, and safety to survivors of domestic violence in our communities. Domestic violence doesn’t just happen in November and December, but all year. As a member of a community, you can shine a light to make this holiday season brighter for all. Whether that is simply wishing others a “Happy Holiday”, donating your time to make the holidays brighter for people struggling with hardships, donating new items to local shelters, or donating your treasures to support programs that are about to enter a busy time. 

Here at Harbor House, we have seen an increase in the number of survivors utilizing our programming across the board. From shelter, to support groups, to 1:1 advocacy, to shelter stays – the need for our services is growing, and we need our community to allow us to have that capacity to grow. Now through December 31, your gift to Harbor House will have an even greater impact thanks to our 3,2,1 $100,000 Matching Gift Challenge! Consider giving your time, talent or treasure to an organization that touches your heart. We thank you for your support throughout the year and hope that you will continue shining your light for survivors this holiday and throughout the whole year.