Male stabbing victim finds shelter - finally
By Denise Crosby firstname.lastname@example.org November 15, 2012 10:36PM
Sharain Spears walks with her cousin, Brian Ingram, to Lazarus House in St. Charles on Tuesday, November 13, 2012. Spears helped her cousin, a victim of domestic violence, secure shelter after he was recently stabbed by his girlfriend and left homeless and couldn't get into other shelters because of his gender and his injuries. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 19, 2012 11:22AM
We all should have someone in our corner like Sharain Spears, especially when experiencing the kind of month like her cousin Brian Ingram is having.
Ingram was stabbed three times by his girlfriend, Diane M. Romano, on Nov. 4, after an argument at their home on Van Norwick Avenue in Batavia. Romano, who also knifed her 19-year-old son, was charged with three felony counts. Ingram was hospitalized with two punctured lungs.
Romano, 38, bonded out and went home. Ingram, released from Delnor Hospital last Wednesday with no place to go, began living in a borrowed truck. Which is not a great place to bunk, especially after his wounds became infected.
That’s when Spears stepped in. Even though she’d not talked to her 34-year-old cousin in over a year because of “that crazy relationship” with Romano, she put all that aside when she heard he was in crisis.
Ingram is no angel himself. He admitted to serving time eight years ago on domestic violence charges. But Spears insists Ingram worked hard to turn his life around, which is why she was so upset he would not leave Romano. “He picks the wrong women,” she said matter-of-factly.
Spears lives in public housing so Ingram couldn’t bunk with her. But she spent all day Monday searching for shelter for him because she knows what it’s like to have your back against the wall.
Spears, who says she also ended up in the hospital a decade ago after a domestic violence beating, remembers clearly “driving around in a ratty old station wagon” with her three children because no one would take her in. It was Mutual Ground and Hesed House that provided shelter and counseling, which allowed her to get back on her feet . “Without them,” Spears said, “I don’t know where I would be.”
Since then, she’s tried to follow in the footsteps of her late mother, Aurora community activist Annie Spears, to help find housing for seniors and victms of domestic abuse. But it’s tricker getting help for men, she’s found. Not only is domestic violence considered a women’s issue, abused men are far less inclined to come forward because, as Ingram says, “I’m embarrassed by all this.”
Karen Kuchar, executive director of DuPage Family Shelter Service, says her organization “rarely get calls from men” needing help. Most shelters don’t have the room to take in men, although there have been a couple times in the past where male victims in emergency situations have been put up in motels.
“It’s been a stop-gap when we are overly full,” said Kuchar. But with state budget cuts, even that well is dry, shelter directors say.
While domestic violence is still very much a women’s issue, Kuchar has seen a gradual increase in men seeking out help for court advocacy. Orders of protection against women for violence and stalking are clearly on the rise, she said. And there’s been an increase in male victims seeking counseling, even though support groups are small.
Although it’s certainly “not on equal footing,” she said, “the power balance is not so scewed” as it once was.
After Ingram’s wounds became infected, Spears said she took her cousin to Rush-Copley Medical Center, where he was treated and advised to contact Lazarus House. But the St. Charles shelter required proof that Ingram, whose possessions were still at Romano’s home, was a resident of the Tri-Cities.
Hesed House Executive Director Ryan Dowd was more than willing to work with Ingram at the Aurora homeless shelter. But Ingram was concerned about re-infecting his open wounds living close to so many men, including those battling diseases. Clearly frustrated by late Monday evening, Spears finally found her cousin a bed for a night from a Facebook friend by posting this plea: Men who are domestic violence victims need help too. On Tuesday, after receiving proof from Batavia police that Ingram was a Tri-Cities resident, she planned to drive him to Lazarus House, where he hoped to stay until he could heal enough to return to his job at Service Pallet in North Aurora.
The whole experience, said Spears, made her more determined than ever to continue her advocacy work. “I know what it’s like to turn your life around,” she said. “Someone was there to help me. I need to do the same for others.”