Trapped in abusive relationships with nowhere to go, many women find few alternatives to that life or feel forced to remain with the abuser. A nonprofit started by Au Nguyen, 31, provides the escape for these domestic abuse victims and their children. The organization is committed to connecting people in need of transitional housing with unused housing resources.
And while these survivors are coping with a very difficult time, to Nguyen, their story and courage make them “glow” — as every woman should — and so the Glow Center was born to offer women a second chance at life.
Domestic violence is stigmatized within ethnic communities and many Asian Pacific Islander Americans (APIAs) don’t speak openly about it. Compound that with an immigrant experience where few women are aware of support services, and the situation gets worse or even normalized.
To some women, explains Nguyen, “The man isn’t doing anything wrong.” Her goal is to raise awareness that domestic abuse is not a way of life; it is not the norm.
Nguyen started on this journey of community involvement through her professional work as a real estate agent. An idea was realized when Nguyen saw that two issues could be used to serve one another. In an economy where the real estate market has suffered dramatically — and homes are left empty after foreclosures — Nguyen saw an opportunity to offer transitional housing to survivors while they get back on their feet.
When homeowners are no longer able to pay their mortgage, they receive a foreclosure notice. This notice means there is a 14- to 18-month window for the bank to respond, explains Nguyen. Within that window of time, survivors are able to move into the property and receive a chance to transition to a new, empowered life.
Donations from landscapers and cleaning services allow the home to be maintained while Glow Center tenants are living on the property. It is a win-win for everyone, Nguyen said. The tenants are safe and the home is being lived in and taken care of.
Tenants go through a simple screening process; only sex offenders and those who have criminal pasts are not accepted. A requirement for tenants is that they must not contact the abuser; if they do, they will have to vacate the property. Right now, four units are ready for survivors to move-in.
“Victoria” (whose real name will be kept private to protect her identity) was Nguyen’s inspiration for the formation of the Glow Center. The 28 year-old was a tenant before the center’s formal development. Victoria said Nguyen’s compassion is the reason she was given an opportunity to live a new life. A temporary home offered refuge from her own abuser and even a new network of supporters.
“My landlords are very compassionate. They’re there for you,” said Victoria. “They talk to you like you’re a real person and don’t give you attitude. I’m blessed.”
Around the age of 21, Victoria met her abuser. At one point she discontinued the relationship, but eventually returned to it. Unfortunately, while Victoria was pregnant with their son, he continued to beat her. Since Victoria had isolated herself from friends and family, she had no where to turn. But it wasn’t long before she recognized she must look for other places to live.
Victoria struggled first-hand finding a new home. Due to a violent background with her son’s father, she was rejected by landlords who observed an unsteady tenant history. It was nearly impossible to reside in one location at the time of the relationship as the disturbance from the domestic abuse caused the couple to be removed from the property often.
She had nowhere else to go, until she connected with Nguyen. She was looking at one of Nguyen’s properties when Nguyen made the choice to provide her shelter and offered assistance with the move-in cost.
Today, Victoria and her 5-year-old son are safe and happy. She said she wants to be a social worker and counsel other domestic abuse victims. I want to help others find a way out of abuse, Victoria said.
Others offering support for survivors at the Glow Center are investors who have actually donated homes, according to Nguyen. David Marshall, 33, a Glow Center board member and treasurer, said the greatest need is houses. A close second is money. Marshall is an IT analyst and software designer who consulted on the development of the website for the Glow Center.
The center, just a year old, is operated and managed on mostly volunteer labor but Nguyen appreciates the support from the community and is coordinating an up-coming gala to build on the foundation she has established.
To support their mission to provide transitional housing for survivors of domestic violence, the Glow Center is coordinating a fundraising gala on September 18, 2011 at Blueacre Seafood. At the fundraiser, Marshall said he hopes to collect donations, build a solid reputation within the community for their work, and gather support from local businesses. So far, businesses such as Costco, Wells Fargo, Hotel Max, Jillian’s Billiard Club, Sullivan’s Steakhouse, and Salon Modello have shown support through donations. And Blueacre Seafood generously donated their venue for the Sept. 18 gala.
In two to three years, the goal is to earn solid relationships with area banks who can provide more donated homes.
“A basic human need is to have a safe place to live,” said Nguyen.
The Glow Center’s fundraising gala, “The Glowing Event”, is on Sept. 18, at Blueacre Seafood, 1700 7th Ave Seattle. Doors open at 3 p.m.; Dinner served at 4 p.m. For more information, contact David Marshall at (206) 322-1200. Purchase tickets at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/189580. For more information about the Glow Center, please visit: www.theglowcenter.org.