© 2023 90.7 WMFE. All Rights Reserved.
Public Media News for Central Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

As domestic violence calls rise in Central Florida, shelter expands to meet need

Michelle Sperzel, CEO of Harbor House of Central Florida, addresses a rise in domestic violence calls during an Orange County Sheriff's Office press conference.
Orange County Sheriff's Office
Michelle Sperzel, CEO of Harbor House of Central Florida, addresses a rise in domestic violence calls during an Orange County Sheriff's Office press conference.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the Harbor House of Central Florida is expanding its number of beds to keep up with the increased rate of abuse.

Harbor House is expanding its beds from 120 to 136 later this month. The expansion makes Harbor House the largest domestic violence shelter in Florida. The shelter has had 10,000 calls so far this year — 400 more than last year.

Domestic violence is on the rise because of different issues like COVID and inflation that are exacerbating relationships with power and control issues, said Michelle Sperzel the CEO of Harbor House.

“We're looking at even homicides that are happening here in Orange County, that also increased this past year,” she said.

Sheriff John Mina spoke alongside Sperzel during a press conference addressing domestic violence earlier this week. He said OCSO has responded to 3,500 domestic abuse calls so far this year, with about 3,300 of those incidents ending with an arrest. Mina also said the number of calls is 1,000 incidents less than the year before.

That's not surprising, Sperzel said.

"It is a very underreported crime," she said. "Not everybody wants to have law enforcement involved. They also don't want the Department of Children and Family involved. It might be that they don't want them involved because they don't think it is as bad as it is."

Sometimes a financial component holds people back from seeking help, but Harbor House is equipped to assist with such concerns.

“When someone calls and starts working with a domestic violence advocate, we can talk through a lot of those different fears. And we can talk through how we can safely plan and how we can financially, safely plan,'” she said.

Sperzel also added, that if you see someone potentially going through abuse, say something. The individual may not be ready to reach out to the Harbor House hotline, but providing patience and support can help someone greatly along their journey.

The number to call Harbor House of Central Florida is 407-886-2856. Help can also be reached by visiting the shelter's Facebook page.

Originally from South Florida, Joe Mario came to Orlando to attend the University of Central Florida where he graduated with degrees in Radio & Television Production, Film, and Psychology. He worked several beats and covered multimedia at The Villages Daily Sun but returned to the City Beautiful as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel where he covered crime, hurricanes, and viral news. Joe Mario has too many interests and not enough time but tries to focus on his love for strange stories in comic books and horror movies. When he's not writing he loves to run in his spare time.
Related Content
90.7 WMFE relies on donors like you. Your support allows us to provide independent, trustworthy journalism and fact-based content. Show your support today by contributing on a monthly basis or making a single online donation.