Vice President Joe Biden made a stop in Chicago today to help the city break ground on its first new domestic violence shelter in more than a decade.
“There’s no prison on earth like the four walls of a woman’s home when she’s battered,” Biden said in a speech Monday morning. “These women are prisoners in plain sight. They walk down the street every day and they are still prisoners.”
Biden, alongside Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, spoke about the progress made since the first passage of the Violence Against Women Act, and the significance of the new shelter that will open by the end of next summer.
“In building this shelter, you’re preventing so much by ending the cycle of abuse, providing an alternative to the street…bringing an end to the psychological damage being inflicted on her and on her children, and just maybe preventing a homocide,” Biden said.
He added, “What you’re also providing is one of the most illusive commodities an abused woman needs: hope. Just simple hope…and it all starts with a safe place. Everything starts from here.”
The new shelter is a collaboration of local non-profit groups WINGS (Women In Need Growing Strong), Metropolitan Family Services, and Greater Southwest Development Coroporation. The partnership between the three groups will allow the shelter to offer a variety of services, from housing to counseling and other social services.
According to the Chicago Police Department, local officers respond to approximately 200,000 domestic violence-related calls each year. There is little data, however, of how many women and men suffer each day at the hand of an abusive partner. The National Domestic Violence Hotline, which recently received its 3 millionth call, reports that 24 people per minute are victims of rape, violence, or stalking in the country.
But despite the new shelter’s opening, the city of Chicago will still have only 152 beds available for those seeking sanctuary from a violent home–a problem, Biden said, that cannot be solved by simply opening more shelters. “There will never be enough beds unless we change the culture we live in.”