BCR News: Congressman Kinzinger takes tour of Freedom House

Kinzinger’s dad once involved in a similar mission

PRINCETON – Shelters that protect women from domestic violence are something that U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger knows something about.

His father, Rus Kinzinger, was CEO for many years of Home Sweet Home Ministries in Bloomington, which serves the homeless, hungry and those in need of emergency shelter services.

During a tour Monday afternoon of Freedom House, which provides emergency shelter for women who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, Congressman Kinzinger mentioned that his father, now retired, was once involved in similar work.

Kinzinger, R-Channahon, who represents the 16th District, was given a 15-minute tour of the Princeton facility. His guides were Amber Killian, domestic violence program manager, operations, and Michael Zerneck, executive director.

While walking a small group through the facility, Killian explained how clients and their families who come to the emergency shelter are given all the personal care items they will need while there.

Various rooms, all with painted concrete-block walls, were shown, including a typical bedroom setup, a safe haven room for mothers to have time to themselves, communal living rooms, kitchens, dining areas, bathrooms, and laundry facilities.

There are 20 emergency shelter beds on one side of the facility, and 12 on the other side.

“When they first come into emergency shelter, they’re on a three-week basis,” Killian said, “and then we kind of just service plan with them and see how long they need to stay depending on what their goals and stuff are. They can get two more extensions of three weeks each.”

Freedom House offers programs and support for women, such as computers and technology and telephones, along with a “dress for success” room with nice clothes, shoes, jewelry, purses, “anything they would need for jobs or church,” Killian said.

“They can keep what they take from there,” she said.

Kinzinger asked where those items come from.

“The community supports us,” Zerneck said. “We get so many donations from the community. We’ve been here for 35 years, and they know us.”

Freedom House serves Bureau, Marshall, Putnam, Stark and Henry counties, but as far as the shelter is concerned, most of the women come from Bureau County, “but that’s because it’s hard to move,” Killian said.

Zerneck said budget cuts forced some domestic violence shelters in the Chicago area to close, which caused some women in need to seek help elsewhere.

“We will serve anyone who comes to us,” he said.

Killian guided the group into another part of the facility where a new program, the Tier 2 Shelter Program, is headquartered. It is a program that can last up to two years and provides longer-term support to clients for eventual independent living.

The purpose is to try to improve clients’ financial and skills situation so they are better off when they leave compared to when they arrived, Killian said.

Kinzinger remarked about the quality of the facility, which was originally built for the Covenant Children’s Home.

Zerneck said the children’s home “left the orphanage business, as they called it, in the early 2000s.”

After that, the building sat empty for a number of years.

“And then they invited Freedom House (to use it) and they supply this building to us rent free,” Zerneck said.

Kinzinger learned about other educational programs and classes and guest speakers organized by Freedom House before meeting with staff members.

Earlier in the day, Kinzinger addressed students at Putnam County High School in Granville.

The original article and photos from the visit can be found on the BCR News website here.