Barbara said she would be homeless if it weren’t for Hospitality House, an emergency shelter in Rome for women and children escaping domestic violence that currently is housing 10 women and 14 children ages 2 months to 16 years.
“I’ve been at the shelter for two months,” said Barbara, who for privacy reasons is only being identified by her first name. “The Hospitality House is an amazing place and resource for women like me.”
She was one of more than 250 men, women and children who braved the briskness of Friday’s 46-degree day to take part in the 12th annual “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event at Rotary Park and down Broad Street.
She even proudly participated in the “hairiest legs” contest against five men and finished in second place to Rome Police Officer Ryan Harris. Master of Ceremonies and event committee member Robert Smyth had encouraged women to join in the fun as he acknowledged shaving becomes a low priority for many women after summer has passed.
“I know it’s ‘no-shave November,’” Smyth said with a laugh, adding he knows of some women who could use the weed trimmer prize donated by Lowe’s. This was met by a few moans from the crowd.
After awarding Father John Herring of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church a fire pit from Lowe’s for having the “hottest legs,” Smyth reminded those waiting for the march down Broad Street that although they are having a good time, what brought them all together is far from funny.
“It’d be great if one day we didn’t have to have this walk at all because domestic abuse has ended completely, but until that time, thank you all for walking,” Smyth said before acknowledging numerous local sponsors and sending participants off toward Broad in their sequined pumps and patent leather boots.
Hospitality House Executive Director Lynn Rousseau had told the shivering crowd she couldn’t be more proud of the Rome community for opening the second domestic violence shelter in Georgia in 1978 that came only seven years after the first such shelter in the world opened in England.
“That says tons about the heart of this community,” Rousseau said, adding that when she first started with the agency back in 1999, the first shelter on South Broad was three separate buildings with a total capacity of 18. “Because of the committed board that we have and the generosity of the city, they helped us get a block grant so we were able to open our currently facility, which is a 10,000-square-foot residential facility that houses 27 women and children. That is about where we typically stay because unfortunately the need is great.”
After the approximately 50 high-heeled men and more than 200 women and children marched behind a giant Hospitality House banner down to First Avenue from Fourth Avenue and back to Rotary Park, first-timer Chris Pope came to a realization.
“Although my feet are feeling magnificent, next year I’m going to find me a size that fits and I’m going to color coordinate,” Pope said with a sheepish grin, adding he has experienced domestic violence in his own family. “That is a common thread in a lot of people’s lives, unfortunately.”