People of Housing Security: Jamie Hiatt
Shelter coordinator works to empower survivors of domestic violence that trauma isn’t the end of their story
During her childhood, Jamie Hiatt learned her grandmother had been a victim of domestic violence. This experience became a pivotal point in Jamie’s life and inspires her to help survivors of domestic violence today.
While her children were young, Jamie was a stay-at-home mom. Eventually, she felt like it was time to head back into the workforce. However, she wasn’t sure what direction she wanted to go. Her therapist at the time recommended that she look up volunteer opportunities in the area.
During her research, Jamie came across Middle Way House and she was instantly driven to their mission to support survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. Jamie quickly found fulfillment with Middle Way House and began volunteering on a weekly basis.
One afternoon a little more than 4 years ago, while she was volunteering, an overwhelmed case manager jokingly asked Jamie: “Do you want a job?!” As Jamie recalled the story, she chuckled and said that she responded to the case manager: “Yes, actually, I’d love a job!” Jamie then became a case manager at Middle Way House before transitioning into the shelter coordinator position in 2020.
Like many crisis response jobs, Jamie described that daily life as the shelter coordinator can be chaotic. The shelter has capacity for up to 20 adults and their children. Balancing crisis response individually while also working on conflict resolution within shelter can be a lot to carry at times. However, Jamie is thankful that she isn’t alone in these efforts. Jamie has two case managers that help with guests at the shelter. Jessica Jemision is focused on providing life skills while Pia Martin is focused on housing search and placement. A big part of Jamie’s job is supporting them.
Jamie is currently working with her team to create a 16-week holistic wellness program for people when they are in shelter. This program will include workshops and support groups that cover various life skills as well as healing from trauma while they are doing housing search and placement case management. Jamie’s desire for this program is that “when people leave here they have a better base to stand on emotionally, physically, and financially.”
Jamie recalled her experience with one of her first clients as being especially challenging. Her client had gone through so much to get housing. She faced barriers when looking for employment and applying for disability benefits. Her client began to get frustrated by how many delays she was experiencing. However, after many days in shelter, things began to look up. The client came downstairs and found Jamie and hugged her and began to dance in circles. Jamie chuckled recalling this story. “I didn’t know why we were dancing but I joined in.” The client eventually told Jamie how she had been accepted and approved to move into her own home!
“you’re with people and follow them for weeks. You see them at their lowest points. Then one day they get housing and it’s a beautiful thing.”
Moments like this drive Jamie’s work. She explained that in her work “you’re with people and follow them for weeks. You see them at their lowest points. Then one day they get housing and it’s a beautiful thing.” She has seen people rejoice over news about housing opportunities and they say things like “I didn’t think this would ever happen.”
To Jamie, one of her greatest aspirations in her work is that she wants to show her clients that there is hope. She’s recently been reading a book called “Hope Arising: How the Science of Hope Can Change Your Life.” Jamie explained how typically people view hope as wishful thinking. But as the book explains, “hope is having the pathways and the willpower to heal.” Jamie says, “ it is our jobs to point out the pathways and then educate and empower survivors to find the willpower to heal.”She desires to tell clients: “You can be healed and not live in a place of being forever traumatized.” She added that ‘Often people who go through trauma don’t realize that their brain has literally been rewired from those experiences.”
Jamie has been doing more research into adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and has found that “almost always [clients at Middle Way House] have stuff going on from childhood. It’s not just current trauma that brings them here.” Oftentimes, the people that Middle Way house serves have experienced polyvictimization, meaning that they have been exposed to multiple types of violence or victimization. She wishes people understood that for people who are survivors of domestic violence have had a lifetime of trauma -“it’s not just one bad relationship. There’s usually a lot more underneath the surface.”
When Jamie isn’t at Middle Way House, you can find her spending adventures with her husband Mark and their 3 kids. Since their kids were young, they have been glamping in an RV around the country. Jamie said her family has slept in almost every state, except for Hawaii, Alaska, California, and Nevada. Jamie and Mark began these adventures to expose their kids to the many wonders of nature the US has to offer. Her favorite place they have glamped was at Glacier National Park. In addition to glamping and hiking, Jamie finds a creative outlet through semi-professional photography.
About the People of Housing Security: This series highlights the work of those committed to improving the lives of residents in South Central Indiana. Find all the articles in this series here.