In 1977, Ann Whitehead, a local social worker, realized the pervasiveness of family violence in San Antonio. She envisioned an environment where victims of abuse could find respite from fear. She enlisted the help of Reverend Don Baugh, Director of the San Antonio Community of Churches, and together with faith, determination and $400.00 opened the Battered Women and Children’s Shelter (BWCS) of Bexar County on March 9, 1977. The three-bedroom house on San Antonio’s north side was immediately filled to capacity. Concerned citizens raised money, collected food, clothing and diapers and operated the shelter on a day-to-day basis for the first year. With the demand for services increasing, the shelter moved to a larger, converted church building south of downtown where it remained for 24 years.
By the mid-eighties, comprehensive literature had been developed which increased community awareness of family violence and prompted public funding for family violence programs. As women revealed their stories, it was soon realized that the victims’ needs exceeded mere shelter. Many victims had witnessed violence in their homes as children and statistics pointed to a pattern of abuse. In 1987, the Battered Women’s Shelter of Bexar County initiated a program to break this cycle. The needs of both women and children were identified, and programs were established to meet these needs. Services such as transitional housing, non-residential counseling, legal services, medical services, and educational opportunities and support were introduced, to comprehensively help victims of violence move toward real and lasting independence.
In May 2002, the Battered Women & Children’s Shelter (BWCS) moved into La Paloma De La Paz, a shelter complex that accommodates 220 people. La Paloma De La Paz is located in a complex with a variety of residential and supportive services. These together provide a cost-efficient synergy of services, and expand options and choices for clients. BWCS has grown extensively over the last 45 years, what was once a three bedroom facility offering only emergency shelter today has a 60,000 sq. ft. emergency residential facility, a 15,000 sq. ft. non-residential facility, Court & Military Liaison Program at the Bexar County Civil District Courts, Community Based Counseling Program at Haven for Hope and the first accredited Batterer Intervention Program in San Antonio. With a professional team of licensed counselors, case managers and attorneys, BWCS provides their residential and non-residential clients supportive and life-saving programs that together give options and choices for families.