In 1978, police in La Grange and Western Springs and staff from Lyons Township had reached out to Pillars Community Health (then Des Plaines Valley Community Center), noting that domestic and sexual abuse were becoming more evident in their villages. As a result, the nonprofit sought funding to open a “shelter home for abused women.” The first shelter in the area opened in Brookfield on April 24, 1979. Later that year, the program received a bequest from the Constance Rothschild Morris Foundation of New York City, and the shelter was named “Constance Morris House” in memory of the daughter of Constance Rothschild Morris. Pillars Community Health is marking the shelter’s 40th anniversary with a celebration during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, on October 3, 2019. Click here to view the event details.
“Everyone has a right to be safe in their own bodies, in their homes and within the larger community,” says Senior Vice President of Domestic and Sexual Violence Services Lynn Siegel, who has directed the program since 1989. “The services Constance Morris House provides gives survivors a voice that affirms their value in the world. Throughout my years of work with survivors, I continue to be inspired by their strength and desire for a life without violence.”
The shelter and the agency’s Domestic and Sexual Violence Services have grown over the years. The first shelter could only house 4-5 women and their children, so the agency moved the shelter to a new location (address undisclosed for safety).
Today, the shelter can serve more than 20 people, including women and children, but is also now assisting others in the community who are in need of domestic violence services such as men and transgender individuals. Services have been expanded to include a confidential 24-hour hotline, crisis intervention, individual and group counseling, family counseling with the non-offending parent, legal advocacy, medical advocacy, community education and prevention, a police response collaboration, and links to ongoing support services such as emergency financial assistance and housing programs. All services are provided at no cost.
“Healthy relationships and human rights are critical to the overall health of the thousands of individuals we serve and the communities we serve,” says Angela Curran, JD, LLM, president and CEO of Pillars Community Health. “Through our shelter, advocacy, and prevention services, we can challenge and hopefully change attitudes about domestic and sexual violence and, in the process, help our communities be stronger and healthier.”