As Domestic Violence Awareness Month begins, Haven House director Estella Weitz reflects on why it is such an important month.

Haven House, a domestic violence shelter in Rio Rancho, is a resource for women, men and children to use in their time of need.

“Haven House is all about choice. We focus on people’s immediate needs when they come in, like food, clothes or shelter,” Weitz said.

Weitz says the assumption is that Haven House is just one big room where people stay, but each person has access to their own room, a full kitchen, common-area restrooms and a shared living room. Each of the rooms is fully furnished and comes with a mini fridge.

Kids that come into the shelter have access to a playground outside, in-shelter learning, counseling and transportation for kids who are still allowed to attend school.

The facility is under constant surveillance and is surrounded by a cement wall with barbed wire on top. The location of the shelter is not shared with anyone that hasn’t been questioned prior to arrival.

Weitz just started a new program for comfort animals as well.

“I think we have 17 dogs, 12 cats, three birds, a tarantula and a scorpion. So we’re starting what we’re calling our kennel project because we need more space for the animals,” she added.

The main needs are funding and volunteers to help build a bigger space to keep animals.

While the assumption that domestic violence only happens to certain groups, Weitz says they do not discriminate.

In fact, they have seen an increase in the number of men at the shelter.

“It’s been in the last year or so that we’ve seen that increase,” Weitz added.

The shelter also offers non-residential services.

Weitz says they are always hiring and always looking for volunteers. The shelter has an in-house “grocery store” that people can donate goods to. The items are free to residents. They are working on a similar program for clothing as well.

All donations go through the AllState on Southern Blvd.

Haven House will host its annual Purple of the Poles event Oct. 7 to commemorate Domestic Violence Awareness Month.