Unity Home, Yucca Valley: A Safe Haven from Domestic Violence

By Jacqueline Guevara

No one deserves to be abused. You deserve to be in a relationship that is built on equality and mutual respect. You deserve to be in a relationship where you can get your needs met, feel safe, and be free from harm.

In the U.S., 4 women are murdered every day as the result of domestic violence (DV) – and those are just the numbers reported. An estimated 10 million children see domestic violence in some form each year, and statistics show that two-thirds of these children will repeat the cycle at some point in their lives. In addition, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will experience at least one form of domestic violence from an intimate partner during adulthood. Despite the very real dangers that DV poses, it takes an average of 7 times for a victim to leave their abuser. The support needed to assist these victims can seem like a gargantuan effort, but one woman and her dedicated team are fighting these statistics every day right here in our community.

As one of a network of only seven domestic violence support organizations in the massive area that is San Bernardino County (the largest county in the U.S.), Morongo Basin Unity Home, Inc. is a “nonprofit organization that helps victims of domestic violence and their families move towards living more independent and self-sufficient lives, free from the fear of abuse. Domestic Violence can appear in the form of physical, emotional, sexual, mental, and/or financial abuse.” Serving over 35,000 clients since its inception in 1982, the positive effect that this organization has had on those it serves and their families is immeasurable and multi-layered.

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Unity Home’s mission is as follows:
“To provide a safe haven for victims of domestic violence, to educate and assist them through counseling, legal advocacy, and building their self-esteem
as to allow them to live their life free of the fear of abuse.” To find out how they achieve that mission, I caught up with the driving force behind the organization, Executive Director, Susanna Barnett, and got the “Unity Home Scoop.”

Tell me about yourself – how did you come to Unity Home?
I was born in Sweden and raised in the Canary Islands and met and married my ex-husband in Italy. He was in the Marines and told me we were moving to California. Of course, I envisioned beaches and palm trees…well, we got the palm trees right, at least! We moved on base in 29 Palms, and we only had one car for the whole family, which now included our young son. I was bored at home and my neighbor suggested I take the public bus to Yucca Valley. I did, but didn’t know about the concept of transfers, so I accidentally got off on Park Blvd. in Joshua Tree – right in front of the Unity Home office! I saw a sign in the window that said bilingual volunteers needed, and since I speak Spanish (and Swedish), I figured I would check it out, and intended to volunteer a few hours a week. Volunteering quickly evolved into a full-time position in the administrative office, then I became a counselor at the shelter, and eventually moved into my current position as ED. Linda Camacho hired me and was my mentor all along the way. She is the reason I am where I am today.

In your own words, what is Unity Home’s mission? To provide a safe haven for victims of domestic violence and their kids and to educate them. Education is power, and we give our clients back the power that was taken from them. We give people support and teach them basic life skills and help them move from victim to survivor. We want them to be able to live a life free from fear and abuse.

What is Unity Home’s history?
Unity Home was opened in 1982 in Twentynine Palms by a group of concerned citizens – including a nurse, a military man, and a pastor. The pastor had noticed that some of his congregation seemed to have issues with homelessness and abuse, so he got the group together, raised some money, and opened a shelter. We became a corporation in 1986, and in 2000 opened an outreach office, we have moved several times since we started to accommodate our growth as well as to maintain anonymity of our shelter location.

Describe how people access programming?
They can start by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233, or the Unity Home 24-Hour Hotline at 760-366-9663. Anyone with a phone will be directed to Unity Home, or they can access the live chat option on our website, unityhome.org. We also accept walk-ins to our Outreach office, referrals from Law Enforcement agencies, other shelters, or hospital. We are also listed on the 211 database and 411.

24-hour Unity Home Hotline: 760-366-9663
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233
National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline – call or text 988
Website: unityhome.org – features chat with a live advocate
Mailing Address: PO Box 966 Yucca Valley, CA 92286
Outreach Offices: 7237 Joshua Lane, Yucca Valley, CA 92284
Se habla español

Tell me your favorite success story.
Just helping someone get to safety is a success story to me. With that being said, one case does stand out. We had a young woman in her 30s, who was an immigrant and did not speak English. Her abuser kept her very isolated as a form of control. She had never done anything on her own. She escaped her abuser and came into our shelter with her 2 small daughters, and then moved to transitional housing for 3 years. We helped her learn English, open a bank account, ger her driver’s license, buy a car, get a Food Handler’s card, and gain full custody of her children. While in transitional housing, she got her associate degree while holding down a full-time job. She still comes in every holiday to visit.

How can people help?
Volunteer!! Your time equals money for us and makes a huge difference. You can also donate money or attend one of our fundraising events. We just had a Casino Night to bring awareness to teen dating violence, and have our annual western themed event in October, which is also National Domestic Violence Month. You can find great deals at our Thrift Store, located in Yucca Valley, and donate your gently used goods there. Sign up for our newsletter, the Unity Home Scoop, to keep up on happenings. Last, take our free training and get educated on DV and what can be done to fight it. Join us in helping change lives!

Listed below are Unity Home’s programs:
1. Outreach office – counseling, 12 different support groups each week, assistance filing restraining orders, on-site supervised visitation, court support, commodities (food, toiletries, thrift store vouchers)
2. Thrift Store – sales of donated items help augment funding
3. Shelter or out of town shelter placement
4. Transitional Housing for clients who apply and qualify
5. Transportation – rides provided to medical appointments, court, CalWorks appointments, etc., and daily or monthly bus passes
6. Healthy Relationships training at High Schools – to help children of DV relationships break the cycle, and to bring awareness to the teen dating violence issue

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