Merryman House Provides Many Services for Victims of Domestic Violence
Paducah's Merryman House has been serving survivors of domestic violence for over 40 years. Cases of domestic violence often surge during the holiday season. Merryman House executive director Mary Foley speaks to Tracy Ross about the comprehensive list of services the center provides.
Merryman House's founder, Merryman Kemp, passed away in July 2021. "Anybody that knows Merryman knows what a unique individual she was and what a force she was—a force for good," Foley begins. "When we have the opportunity to remember, I always go to three words that she signed every correspondence with: love, peace, and courage."
"[Kemp told me] she often became discouraged by the lack of courage that she saw. She said when you see something that needs to be done, you have to do something. You have to give it legs. I think about the time in our world when she was trying to address an issue that we didn't really have a name for. We didn't have it defined in law. We didn't have services available. What courage it must've taken to address those issues."
Foley says love, peace, and courage are the foundational elements with which Merryman House will continue to operate. Much has changed about the domestic violence center since Kemp first founded it 40 years ago.
"People know that the heart of what we do is to respond to the issue of domestic violence in all of its forms for any victim or survivor that needs us. We serve men, women, and children," Foley says.
Merryman House offers a 36-bed emergency shelter for anyone residing in the eight-county Purchase region of western Kentucky. "We often take people outside of that area when they're referred to us for safety purposes, or we need to relocate," Foley explains.
Foley says that Merryman House's services extend far beyond its emergency shelter. "I like for [the community] to think of Merryman House in terms of its mission: we save, we build, and we change the lives of those affected by domestic violence."
"Life-saving services are just what they sound like," Foley continues. "Emergency shelter, 24-hour hotline, work on protective orders with law enforcement, safety planning, relocation, advocacy in court. Homicides in Kentucky from an intimate partner were up 75% in 2020. Life-saving services are critical."
Rebuilding and changing lives are equally important. "When you're rebuilding your life, think about what that might include," Foley continues. "That might include mental health, specialized therapists who are trained in treating trauma. It might mean comprehensive case management, housing stabilization or rental assistance, purchasing a home. It might mean transportation or removing barriers or obtaining legal documents."
"That life-changing part is where we want to help that individual get back up on their feet and get on with their life in a very meaningful way. It might mean credit repair, financial literacy, micro-loan programs, saving programs, immigration issues. It might mean going back to school, getting a job, or purchasing a vehicle."
"When you think about domestic violence, you have to think about the comprehensive nature of it," Foley says. "Merryman House really is there at whatever point they're needed from the beginning to the middle to the end."
The Merryman House serves survivors of all forms of domestic violence: physical, mental, emotional, sexual, financial, or otherwise.
For more information on the Merryman House, visit its website or call the 24-hour hotline at 1-800-585-2686.