"When I came to the program, the staff was really good," Britton said. "They talk to you, that sort of thing. If you have any problems, they'll talk to you."
Britton has since found a home and friends at the center. When one of those friends passed away two months ago, Britton and the other women were afraid of losing another friend -- a cat named Angel, which Britton has since adopted.
"We had a policy for years of no animals, and we got a call from a psychiatrist one day who said, 'I have a woman I think is in desperate need of your program,'" Weinstein said. "'She has a cat, and it's the only thing that keeps joy in her life.' Her children had abused her; it was a terrible story. But she said this woman would live on the street before she would leave her cat."
Shanklin's residents are self-sufficient; they often cook and clean for themselves, and a few of them work in other YWCA facilities. The housing is permanent, and the women are allowed to keep gardens, have cats, hold parties and even have karaoke nights, Khoury said.
"One of our case managers came to me one day and said, 'I heard music blaring out there and thought someone was cutting through with a boombox.' She said she went to check it out and it was Elvis, and in one of the apartments the ladies had set up snacks and were just listening to Elvis," Weinstein said. "She said she laughed so hard."
The center is subsidized housing partially funded through the department of Housing and Urban Development, and only one-third of residents' income goes to funding the Shanklin Center. To supplement its expenses, the YWCA created 2nd Seating, a gently-used furniture store on Elizabeth Street where donated household items are sold to benefit the center and its residents. Many of the residents also work at 2nd Seating, and Weinstein said the community has embraced the store and its mission.
"It's been a real blessing to the Shanklin Center, because all the money we raise at the store help to underwrite the cost of the center," she said. "We have at that store everything you would have at your own home. Furniture, lamps, bureaus, kitchen wear, wall art. The community has been very generous with us."
According to the Administration on Aging, elderly people throughout the U.S. lose an estimated $2.6 billion annually because of elder financial abuse and exploitation. Victims are often verbally and physically abused and threatened, and according to Khoury, many times elder victimization can go unnoticed in a community, which is why Saturday's observance is important for bringing light to the problem.
"If someone is a senior, and they disappear, find out what happened to them," Weinstein said. "Make sure they're OK, because this goes on under our noses, and it's frightening."
The YWCA of Charleston was established in 1912, and its programs, facilities and services impact more than 10,000 people each year. Its shelters and programs provide housing and security for battered and homeless children and adults.
For information on the YWCA, the Shanklin Center or other programs, visit www.ywcacharleston.org.
Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nu...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.