A Secret Compound That Saves Lives

They take in broken families and help make them whole. And they do it inside a secret compound that's located in one of the roughest neighborhoods in Southern California.

"Our first job is to protect the women, to protect the families," said Sister Anne Kelley of the Good Shepherd Shelter. "Not even our neighbors know what we do here."

Sister Anne is in the business of rescuing families. 

For the first time ever, the catholic nun allowed NBC LA to film inside the domestic violence shelter that's unlike any in Southern California. 

It's a city within a city. Within the three-acre property, an apartment building, with individual homes for up to 12 families; a fully accredited elementary school and pre-school; a playground; vegetable and flower gardens; and there's even a swimming pool.

Unlike most domestic violence shelters, the families are allowed to stay as long as they need, as long as it takes to learn to live without chaos and without violence.

"One of the main questions that we ask on an intake interview is, 'you've left three times. What's different this time?' And if she says, 'the children,' then I know she's ready for our program," said Sister Anne.

But the journey from domestic violence victim to domestic violence survivor is a difficult one. The shelter requires the moms to attend daily parenting and education classes, as well as intense therapy sessions.

"I don't think I would have had a life if I wasn't here. I don't think I would have made it," said Claudia, a mother of five, who spent three years at the shelter rebuilding her life.

She came to the shelter after her ex-boyfriend beat her into a coma. She was three-months pregnant at the time of the attack.

"He said he abused me because I got pregnant and he didn't want me to have the baby," said Claudia. "But I was just thinking, 'I'm going to survive because of my kids.'"

"We have a 96 percent success rate of these families going on living violence-free, and the children staying in school and graduating college," said Sister Anne.

And one of the keys to this success rate is targeting the children. They also receive daily therapy sessions, but more importantly, they are encouraged to play, to have a childhood.

"It's much more difficult for anybody to fix any kind of abuse in their lives as adults. It's much easier when they are younger," said Sister Anne. "This is really the solution to domestic violence."

The Good Shepherd Shelter is not funded by the Catholic Church or by taxpayer money. It relies on private donations. Sister Anne said that with the poor economy, donations have been down.   

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