SAFENET DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SAFETY NETWORK INC
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Issues: Homeless & Housing
Location: Safenet Center 1702 French Street Erie PA 16501 USA
Target demographics: women, men, children, Erie County Pa, all ages
Programs: What is SafeNet? Organizational Overview SafeNet, Erie County’s Domestic Violence Safety Network, began as Hospitality House Services for Women in 1974. It was an emergency shelter located at W. 2nd and Myrtle streets, founded by a group of interfaith women, and was incorporated as a private, not-for-profit organization. Its mission was to provide temporary emergency shelter and counseling for women and their children in time of crisis. Based on the overwhelming needs of our first clients, the focus of the agency soon became specifically the needs of battered women. Through our efforts to help pass legislation that would protect battered women, we became affiliated with other counseling and shelter programs in the state. Our mutual awareness of the laws and the many systems and institutions that prevented a woman from leaving an abusive relationship resulted in Hospitality House collaboration with seven other Pennsylvania programs with similar missions. The collaboration formed the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV). Hospitality House was the second shelter for battered women in the state. The coalition is the oldest and most prominent coalition in the nation. The mission of the agency has expanded from that of providing shelter, to encompass our many programs and partnerships that seek to eliminate domestic violence from the lives of all in our community. Hospitality House The first and most basic service is emergency shelter. Within a year of opening our doors in 1974, we realized that the shelter was too small. We finally moved to our current (secret) location in 1978. We can now accommodate 23 women and children, but we have housed as many as 33 with cots and convertible sofas. Although we are best known for our emergency shelter, we have always provided counseling to women via a 24-hour telephone hotline. Shelter services include: a 24-hour, seven day-a-week intake, crisis counseling and referral service, room and board, children’s advocacy (counseling) and child-care. While a woman is with us, counselors work with her to develop a safety plan, as well as a goal plan, to facilitate her return to the community, or to relocate, as is often necessary. As our program has grown, we began to see ourselves as a counseling center for women in abusive relationships. More and more hotline calls are about providing information to a victim to aid in accessing services. Sometimes the counseling is more intensive, listening and brainstorming with a victim to create a safety plan, or giving educational information about the tactics of abusers and the dynamics of domestic violence. Children are always victims – either directly or indirectly – in an abusive household. Our Children’s Advocates function as a component of the Counseling Department; guiding mother and children to a more positive relationship. They may also assist the mother in developing personal and community resources for her first step as a single parent. Our counselors network with a wide variety of local agencies. We routinely refer to drug and alcohol treatment agencies, mental health providers, housing agencies, the Crime Victim Center, Family Services, local hospitals, etc. Shelter is sometimes referred to as a “band-aid,” which minimizes its profoundly essential nature. At least four thousand women die each year as a result of domestic violence. “Tourniquet” may more appropriately analogize shelter – it may save a life; and yet it is not the singular solution to the problem. Domestic violence victims need affordable, accessible legal services to obtain protection from abuse, and they need to access decent affordable housing within a relatively short time period. Hospitality House is just one part of the process towards independence. Other Programs & Services Legal Advocacy PFACS (Protection From Abuse Coordinated Services) was incorporated in 1990 to help us better serve victims of domestic violence. PFACS provides counseling, advocacy, legal representation, and accompaniment to court. The legal process is goal directed. Without a solid counseling component – and without the understanding of the cyclical nature of abuse – many victims fail to follow through with the PFA order. Legal intervention has been found to be far more effective than mediation with, or counseling of, the batterer in breaking the cycle of abuse. It is apparent that because of the unique nature of the crime of domestic assault that a social services component is not merely desirable, but essential and vital to the effectiveness of any service which represents victims of domestic violence. Clients of SafeNet may select one of a number of options. If they pursue the legal option of a PFA order through SafeNet, they have received counseling, and they have support and advocacy throughout the process. Our follow-through rate is one of the highest in the state, thereby helping to make our system cost effective. Hearthstone Bridge Housing In June of 1986, a long-time dream of our organization was realized, with the addition of a second-stage, or transitional housing. For years, the Board of Directors had been interested in a nearby eight-unit apartment building, but the financial supports necessary to get the project off the ground were not available. That year, Governor Richard Thornburg took the initiative to deal with the problem of homelessness, and “Bridge Housing” became a reality. We were provided with the start-up finances needed to both purchase the building and make the necessary renovations. We now operate two buildings in this program, with a total of 11 apartments. Women who have been made homeless as a result of domestic abuse, and who show a demonstrated need for longer-term housing, are eligible for residency in the Hearthstone Bridge Housing Program. Preference is given to women with children. The length of stay is determined on an individual basis, with the average length estimated at six months and the maximum allowable being one year. Case management and childcare services, long-term counseling, life skill training, and support groups are provided. The ultimate goal for each client is independence, but most clients have other goals, such as education or employment. Counselors must utilize available community resources to assist each resident toward self-sufficiency, including educational, cultural, and recreational services. Many women complete GEDs or other employment-enhancing courses. TLC (Transitional Living Center) This project was developed through the donation of a property (by Paul & Mary Ann Brugger) and later the purchase of an adjacent property. McKinney funds were granted to assist in the substantial renovations needed for our transitional living facility. This is a yearlong, holistic program for homeless young mothers, emphasizing literacy and basic life skills, including parenting techniques, healthy relationships, budgeting, safety, cooking and nutrition. The semi-supervised center, fondly named TLC, is a secure, stable, supportive living situation for young women (ages 15 – 21) and their children. There are 6 apartments in two buildings for our residents. TLC counselors provides these mothers with weekly case management and support group meetings, daily living skills instruction, information and referrals to access community resources, as well as assistance in obtaining permanent housing. Healthy Families (HF) Program This outreach program is an extension of TLC, both for mothers who discharge from TLC, and for other young mothers (ages 15 – 21) in the community. HF is designed to prevent child abuse and neglect among young mothers needing a supportive system through which to learn parenting and other life skills. Healthy Families provides in-home supportive counseling and case management services, daily living skills, parenting and healthy relationships instruction, referrals to community agencies and resources, as well as crisis counseling through the use of an emergency beeper system. The HF Program also offers weekly parenting group meetings, recreational activities, a quarterly newsletter, a monetary incentive plan for participation in the services offered, memberships to the local YWCA, child care during parenting groups, and transportation for group activities. Medical Advocacy and Outreach SafeNet works closely with the entire medical community in Erie County to provide awareness training on domestic abuse issues, as well as an early identification and intervention response to victims of domestic violence in the hospital setting. The effort includes professional training regarding the cause and effects of domestic abuse, and steps that the medical community can take to assist the victim, and thus significantly reduce the health care costs associated with abuse and violence. In addition, counselor advocates from SafeNet are on call 24 / 7 to area hospitals, providing crisis response and counseling to injured victims, referrals to shelter or legal assistance, safety planning, information about our many free services, and education regarding the cycle of violence, types of abuse, and how to assess lethality. A partnership with Community Health Net has added five more outreach locations for SafeNet. On a rotating basis, SafeNet provides a Counselor / Advocate a half day per week at each of the following locations: the Martin Luther King Center, the Booker T. Washington Center, the Hispanic-American Council, the John F. Kennedy Center, and Community Health Net’s main facility on State Street. Other Outreach and Non-Residential Programs SafeNet offers one-on-one and group support services at Harbor Homes Learning Center on the east side of town, as well as at our newest facility on 17th and French streets, the SafeNet Center. Counseling and support groups are available for women and their children, and both locations offer educational materials and other life skills on an as-needed basis. Services are provided to past clients of our many residential programs, as well as to those clients who may still be living in abusive situations. In addition, SafeNet conducts preventative outreach programs for the schools in our community, offering workshops for children from K – College. Some of the workshops include, “Hands are not for Hitting,” “Bullying,” “Relationship Aggression” “Anger Management,” “Conflict Resolution,” and for the teens, “Dating Violence” and “Healthy Relationships.” SafeNet regularly makes presentations to community groups, such as churches and women’s organizations, about the dynamics of domestic violence. We also provide corporate training for professionals in social service, healthcare and other businesses, regarding the effects of domestic violence on their clients, employees, and their companies.
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