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LETTER: Safe shelter today, better health in years to come

Children fleeing with their mothers to the Community Violence Intervention Center’s Light of Hope Shelter in Grand Forks are torn from their bed at all hours of the night, traumatized by the violence they’ve seen at home.

Clinging to their moms as they arrive, they have no idea how a stay in shelter could impact their health for the rest of their lives. Studies show that shelter services help to reduce injuries in the months after leaving shelter. And reduced injuries may mean reduced trauma, which often poses long-term health problems for children.

As a health care professional and member of CVIC’s Building Hope Campaign Steering Committee, I have taken particular notice of a major study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente, called the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study.

The study shows strong links between ACEs (such as child abuse and domestic violence) and the likelihood of risky behavior and serious illness -- including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer -- later in life. 

The study forces me to confront underlying realities of violence even years after the violence in one’s life may have ended. It causes us as health care professionals to look more broadly at preventative health care for kids, and it heightens my understanding of the need for safety in our community.

But what if we could do something more? What if we could protect kids before violence was endured? What if we could shelter more families fleeing violence?

CVIC’s Light of Hope shelter is a key factor in ensuring safety and limiting ACEs. But with a 50 percent increase in the number of nights single households spent in CVIC’s shelter over the past five years, and CVIC’s lease expiring in two years, Grand Forks is in desperate need of a new place to keep people safe.

To meet this need, the Building Hope Campaign has been initiated to build a new shelter. Supporting the campaign is one way I can make an impact on safety and health for generations to come. Herald readers, please join me and help hundreds of families to safety and a better future.

Brad Wehe

Grand Forks