A new face at St. James


October 12, 2023

Diana Zimmerman

Alison Brown has taken on different roles at the Charlotte House. Recently she became the shelter director.

"I like the community. I like the work. I like working for St. James."

Alison Brown is the new manager of the Charlotte House, a shelter for women and children in Cathlamet that is part of a program offered by the St. James Family Center.

The program includes a variety of services for people who are victims of domestic violence, along with the refuge for women and children.

"Alison is great," St. James Family Center Director Beth Hansen said. "We are so happy to have her as part of our team. She brings fresh ideas and energy to our program. She is particularly skilled with legal advocacy and working with clients to safety plan and problem solve."

Brown is a lifelong resident of Longview. After getting an associates degree from Lower Columbia College, she went on to Washington State University in Vancouver to earn a degree in social science with a minor in criminal justice.

With parents who worked in social services and law enforcement, Brown was immersed in a lifetime of hearing about such matters. This new role seems a natural progression.

She joined the staff at the Charlotte House a couple years ago, employed to act as a legal advocate before she took over for former manager Susan Schillios, who retired at the end of January this year.

"It's going great," Brown said. "I like the community. I like the work. I like working for St. James.

"It's really nice to interact with them.

"The mission of the shelter is to help women, children, men, anyone who has experienced domestic violence or sexual assault feel empowered, feel safe, be safe, feel confident in their life and feel like they have choices and they have resources and not live in fear," Brown said.

"We're a big support. We shelter women and children. We don't shelter men, but we offer every other service and other resources for men as well.

"We want people to feel safe and that they have options," she emphasized. "To know that they aren't alone."

Charlotte House provides emotional support to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. They assist with safety planning, and can connect victims to resources for housing, financial aid, employment, education and more. They can provide legal advocacy, assisting with completion of protection orders, referrals to legal service, and accompaniment to court proceedings.

At the shelter, clients can receive assistance to obtain clothing, food, medical care, transportation, and more. Advocates help residents develop a plan of action.

They also provide community education, raising awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault.

"Everything is free and confidential," Brown said.

The team at Charlotte House meets people where they are, literally and figuratively. They will answer the phone, meet in person, or communicate via email.

Sometimes advocates are called by law enforcement to respond to domestic disturbances, and will, if the scene is deemed safe, talk to people.

"I like helping people," Brown said. "If I wasn't doing this, I would be a teacher. I like knowing that I'm helping others. This just fell into place."

The work, she said, is hard but rewarding.

"Some clients reach out after we've helped them and they are in a much better place," Brown said. "They've got a job, and are in a wonderful house, or reconnected with friends. They feel better and so much safer. That is why we do it."

"I don't think people realize how common domestic violence actually is," Brown said. "In the state of Washington, 41.4 percent of women over the age of 18 reported that they have been a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime. That's almost half the women in the state, while 31.7 percent of men have experienced it."

"We try to bring awareness to it," she added. "We go into the schools, and do a week of presentations for freshmen in health class on teen dating violence, sexual assault, red flags, how to help your friends, where to get help and who to talk to. We're trying to spread awareness to the younger demographic.

"It's a complex issue," Brown said. "Domestic violence happens behind closed doors and people don't like to talk about it. That's why we try to educate people on it."


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