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Male domestic violence victim able to locate shelter — finally

SharaSpears walks with her cousBrian Ingram Lazarus House St. Charles Tuesday November 13 2012. Spears helped her cousvictim domestic violence

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

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Updated: November 14, 2012 5:17PM



We all should have someone in our corner like Sharain Spears, especially when experiencing the kind of month 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, according to police. Romano, who police say 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 in Geneva 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 his “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 in Aurora 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 victims of domestic abuse. But it’s trickier 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.”

After her cousin’s wounds became infected, Spears took him 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.

Mutual Ground, while offering court advocacy and counseling for the rare male who calls, has no room to house men, who would, for obvious reasons, need separate quarters. The Aurora domestic violence shelter took in a man a couple years ago, said Executive Director Michelle Meyer, but only because they had extra space at the time.

Elgin’s Community Crisis Center doesn’t take men under any circumstances, said its leader, Gretchen Vapnar. The Aurora and Elgin shelters have, on rare occasion, put up men in motels in emergency situations, as has the DuPage Family Shelter Service. But with state budget cuts, even that well is dry, shelter directors say.

“No matter what his background, no one should have to live in a truck while trying to heal from a stabbing,” said a clearly concerned Vapnar. She suggested Batavia Township as a possible resource, but, it turns out, the township only offers “bare bones financial assistance for things like utilities,” and not emergency shelter funds.

At Aurora’s Wayside Cross Ministries, male clients are required to work — and until Ingram’s wounds healed, Spears said doctors don’t want her cousin lifting anything above 15 pounds.

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, some who are battling diseases and mental illness.

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 at least 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.”



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