Women are powerful but that’s not new news. Life happens and in every women’s own personal journey, they all have their own uniqueness in each story. Shante Saulsberry and her wife, Sheri Saulsberry decided to take action with the creation of Janice’s Women’s Center – a center dedicated to women experiencing homlessness and domestic violence in the greater Phoenix, Arizona. The women’s center not only helps and supports women who simply need a safe place in order to surpass their own challenges. I recently caught up with Shante to discuss all the details behind creating Janice’s Women’s Center and much more.
Tell us what inspired the creation of Janice’s Women’s Center?
The idea of opening a shelter came to Shante Saulsberry, after meeting and assisting a homeless woman named Janice every day, while on her way to work. I saw this woman sitting in the parking lot of Chick-Fil-A and at a bus stop. So, one day I decided I was going to get my routine breakfast before work and I was going to also get her breakfast. I did this for a few months and then I would bring other things like clothing, medical care packages, reading material, etc. When it began to get cold outside, I decided that I would try to get her into a shelter. I sent several emails to shelters and I did not receive a response back. I then made calls, and no one would call me back. I then sent letters to shelters and I did not get a response back. So, I remember having to tell the lady that I could not get her any assistance and she looked sad but was also okay with it. She said, “Nobody helps in Phoenix.” That pretty much hurt my heart to walk away from this woman without being able to do more. I was disappointed in our shelters, I was just disappointed in failing. When I got home that night, I told Sheri that I was going to do more. I was going to open my own shelter and change the stigma behind shelter living by creating it out of Cargo containers and also, I would never call it a shelter but identify it as a center only. I also wanted the center to always represent the one person who had given me the inspiration to do more for other women, so I named the center after the woman I had inspired to help and that is where Janice’s Women’s Center came from.
What does it mean to you two to be women of color running a shelter to help others?
It means a lot more to us now that we have been actively in the community, helping many individuals. There have been women of all races that reach out to us for assistance or guidance, but to hear women of color inform us that they reached out to us because they saw us on the news and we looked like them, that is truly inspiring. It is always easier to get assistance from someone or some place where you feel like they will relate. I mean every situation is different and we are here to help all women.
Why is domestic violence a topic that is important to you both?
I “Shante Saulsberry,” chose to assist homeless women and women suffering from domestic violence because I am a domestic violence survivor myself. I wanted to do something that made a difference for women but I also knew I needed to pick an area of interest that I could relate to. So, I chose domestic violence because I have experienced it, I have my own story, I can relate to the women, I can be there for them on a more personal level because I have been there. I also felt like by sticking with a niche that was close to my own personal walk-in life that I could also heal with the women, so they see me go through the process with them.
How can our readers get involved and spread awareness?
We are always looking for any type of support. We are currently in the development stages of getting our center built and all funds donated goes towards that project right now. You can get involved by donating on our website and also following us on our Facebook and we also post a lot on our Instagram, this is pretty much our business page. There’s a great need of support so by spreading the word, donating and constantly posting our links that is a great help.
All images by Holley Ward of Phoenix, AZ