Escaping an abusive relationship is hard for any woman, but immigrant women without legal status face particular obstacles. They have fled their country or abuser without anything to start from. But if they live in Montgomery County, they can find hope and help at the NCCF’s Betty House I and II. Each house provides up to two years of transitional housing for four mothers and their children. It is a shared living residence where the women and their children find safety and thrive in a clean environment as they seek their legal status.
But Betty’s House, which was founded in 2003, is much more than a place to live. “We connect these immigrant women to social services such as legal counsel, child care for those who need to take ESOL classes and job placement help,” says Kimberly Johnson, a former case manager at Betty’s House II. “We also try to help them get food stamps, mental health services through the County’s Abused Persons Center and financial aid from the County’s Temporary Cash assistance Program.
Although Betty’s House is an independent living program, case managers like Johnson visit regularly and 24- hour assistance is available. Most of the Betty House clients are referred from Montgomery County’s Emergency Crisis Center directly or come from a safe house arranged by the crisis center. Others come in through the Abused Persons Crisis Center. While all the women are undocumented immigrants, many acquire work permits to assist their families, pending obtaining their citizenship.
Johnson says residents are in various stages of completing the legalization process, and Betty’s House connects them with free legal help to continue or complete the process during their two-year stay. It usually takes that long for the women to get back on their feet and be self-sufficient, she says, “but some women have left after just one year with their citizenship and a job.” Whatever their situation at the end of the two years, Betty’s House works to ensure no woman is homeless or returns to an abuser with her children.