The Potter House: A safe haven for women who’ve endured domestic or sexual assault, homelessness

A resident of Warren County's Potter House enjoys a cup of coffee inside the home's kitchen. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Nestled down a country road sits a nondescript home known to only a few as The Potter House, a place of rest, refuge and restoration for women and children who have experienced domestic abuse, sexual assault or homelessness.

Lucy Beaty,  administrative director of  The Potter House, said planning for the house began in November 2015 after she met Butch Hammond, a pastoral counselor who had a dream of helping women learn life skills including single parenting, budgeting, and setting and accomplishing goals while encouraging and building themselves up. But most importantly, Hammond wanted to teach women the love of Christ and who they are in him.

“It all started as a conversation around a table with a bag of cookies because Butch had this dream,” Beaty said.

Hammond, a retired police officer, said he came to recognize the community’s need for a women’s shelter but wasn’t sure where to begin or how to start.

“Women who have suffered violence of any kind have always been on my heart,” Hammond said. “They live in survivor mode so they can simply survive.”

What would begin as one man’s dream would become a reality through hard work, dedication and community donations.

Beaty said they started out with “wanting a place for young single moms with children to be able to go. But the Lord’s taken us in another direction.”

Their goal is to help women in need, whatever their circumstances may be.

“Whoever the Lord leads to the door, that’s kind of the way it’s been working,” Beaty said.

Since its opening last June, The Potter House has helped over 11 women by providing rest, refuge, and restoration. Hammond said the inspiration for the name came from one of his favorite pieces of scripture. Jeremiah 18:1-17 tells the story of a potter who is working on a piece of clay that was marred, broken, damaged.

“Kind of like the women we work with,” Hammond said.

Over time, that piece of clay was molded into a new piece of pottery.

Pam Williams, program director at The Potter House, said she finds women who have encountered domestic abuse or sexual assault may suffer from lack of self-esteem, lack of self-worth and value.

“My role is to build the women up,” Williams said. “Show them that they are worthy and valued, loved and are in fact good enough. But more importantly, to change that mindset so in the future they have the tools and understanding to hopefully help them make better life choices.”

The biggest and most important tool for Williams is to share the love of Jesus “and to show them that there is a different way, a better way to survive. They don’t have to struggle to just get by. I want nothing more than (to) teach them who he is instead of what society deems them to be: homeless, broken or unworthy.”

“There’s where my heart is,” Williams said.

Assessments are conducted before the women move into the home. Depending on family size, the home holds six people, including Williams, who stays on the premises to encourage and care for the women.

“The whole idea was to create more than just a homeless shelter,” Williams said. “It’s a transitional home, where we work with them on skill sets they might not have.”

Some women will transition out more quickly, while others may take longer. It all depends on the situation and their needs, Hammond explained.

Beaty said they work with the local community “to meet any needs that we can’t fulfill here on the property.” He added those needs include recovery programs, counseling, education and medical care.

One woman was brought in after a domestic assault. Six weeks later she had found a job and a place to live. Those are the stories the trio loves to share. Another woman did a 360-degree change, which Beaty said blesses their hearts tenfold.

“She’s not the same person that walked through those front doors a few months ago,” Beaty said. “She will tell you that. She told Pam that she thought all those terrible things happened to her because she was supposed to end up with us.”

Hammond added that the woman believes God brought her to them and that her experience at The Potter House changed her life.

There have been some women that the group hasn’t been able to help, and they all agreed it’s disappointing.

Beaty admits she has taken those harder than Williams or Hammond because she wants to help everyone. And she’s realizing that not everyone can be helped.

Hammond added, “Not everyone wants help, but we want to help those that we can. We’re much more than a shelter. We’ve become like a family. And family sticks together, no matter what.

“Through the providence of God, we got together, not knowing one another, we sat down and talked about our visions and dreams. And here we are,” Hammond said

The trio hopes to see their vision continue to grow and expand out of the community into others.

“We want to be able to help more women than we are now,” Hammond said. “But, right now, we’re doing the best we can. One day at a time, one step at a time. God has a bigger plan for us. We know it.”