West Women’s and Children’s Shelter continues to provide 60 day emergency shelter for up to 8 women and 4 families at any given time. Our services are only possible with the utilization of funding for emergency shelter through the Multnomah County Domestic Violence Coordinators Office. In addition to operating emergency shelter, The West also provides co-located transitional housing, children's program (with onsite childcare), parent child specialist services, 24 hour crisis line, food services including food boxes, support groups, clothing closet, transportation resources, rental assistance and permanent supportive housing, and essential needs resources to domestic violence survivors and their families.
Participants have a designated Advocate to be their primary support person during their shelter stay, and there has been no staff turnover on our emergency shelter advocacy positions. In addition, we have at least two staff on at any given time to provide additional support services to residents. We are one of the only emergency shelters in the Portland area which does not close yearly for cleaning or repairs as our facilities staff prioritize these projects throughout the year, and we recognize the overwhelming need for shelter for women and children experiencing domestic violence. Our generous donors make it possible for us to provide this high level and care for survivors of domestic violence. Thank you!
The West’s Emergency Shelter program provides a holistic approach to services, taking in account many aspects of their lives. This includes domestic violence education prevention (including Native American specific domestic violence support groups) for women and children; parenting and life skills support; therapeutic art classes; spiritual counseling and support upon request; GED tutoring; educational resources and scholarships; employment specialists and resources; self defense workshops and self care opportunities. Each resident can select from these many options to meet their complex and individual needs.
Two years ago we implemented the Family Reunification Project to support survivors in completing Child Protective Services requirement to regain custody of their children who were removed from the family. Removal issues include children witnessing domestic violence, the mother's lack of resources and parenting skills, custodial interference and chemical dependency issues. Our Project is recognized as an effective resource for moms working to reunite with their kids in a safe and stable environment by Children's Protective Services through onsite collaboration for group and family activities, including trial overnight stays with their child in a visitation apartment that we set up for this purpose. The Family Reunification Project is unique to Portland Metro Area domestic violence residential services. The West supports the safe reunification of at least five survivors and their children each year.
Family Reunification is essential to the recovery of women leaving domestic violence relationships. As one mom recently said, “My baby was taken from me at birth and if it wasn’t for help I have received at the West he would not be with me today." This once fragile family is doing well and has moved into safe community housing.
West Women's and Children's Shelter has continued to offer emergency shelter, transitional housing, crisis line services, advocacy/case management, food services, to survivors of domestic violence with the generous support of our donors. Below is a narrative of a survivor and her children we provided shelter, safety, and hope to with your help.
“Rita” and her four children came to the West from a very long period of homelessness, trauma, domestic violence, and issues of adult chemical dependency. “Rita” was referred by Pam Britt, homeless lesion from Chapman elementary school. Pam was aware of “Rita's” family situation through working with her children. Pam called and advocated strongly for this wonderful mom who had been struggling for a very long time and needed somewhere to stay with her children ages 4 to 12.
“Rita” and her kids came to the West, shaken and nervous. After meeting with her, “Rita’s” Family Advocate learned how this family had been on the streets, staying in cars, couch surfing, residing in hotels and emergency shelters for over a year. “Rita” was in an abusive relationship with her youngest children's father. He was manipulative, violent, but worst of all to “Rita”, he made it impossible for her to be the mother she needed and wanted to be. “Rita” decided to leave, gave notice at the apartment she shared with her abuser, obtained a restraining order, paid rent for the next couple of months to keep her belongings there, and went to stay with a friend as she no longer felt safe. When she returned to collect her belongings, there was an eviction notice on the door and within a couple of weeks, her and her children were locked out with nowhere to go.
For the month of August and September 2012, “Rita” and her family bounced between hotels, friends, their car, and a shack she built for her family in a park. She tells us that one night, she awoke to find one of her twins had wandered off. She found him quickly, but knew then she needed to find a more permanent, safe home for her and her family. She connected with a shelter (Yolanda house), and was there for a month and a half. She then moved her and her children to another shelter (Raphael house) but was still unable to find anything permanent or stable for her family. After her stay at the second shelter, “Rita” and her children used a TA-DVS grant and money she received from her tax return to stay in hotels. Upon the funds running out, she found herself and her children back on the streets. For six months, they bounced between street, couches, and a park. “Rita” felt defeated and unable to continue.
She felt she was failing as a mother, the one thing she states she had always wanted to be. Finally, she called the West and was able to come in with her kids. It was evident immediately the love she has for her children is immense. She was visibly shaken, but held it together for them. She decorated their room to make it home, spent time with each one, together and separately, and did everything she could to make them feel safe and happy.
While at the West, “Rita” has dug in and really worked on her core issues, domestic violence, housing barriers, and addiction issues. Her advocate in her recovery program speaks very highly of her, stating she is a joy to work with and is doing all she can to stay on track. “Rita” attended our in house groups, including over 20 hours of our domestic violence education and support group. “Rita” had stabilized, and yet we saw the need for further assistance for her and her family. They needed a home in which to grow and bond as a family.
“Rita” was approved for our Women's Housing Collaborative, WHC, in October 2013. The WHC is a permanent supportive housing program designed to assist chronically homeless women in their efforts to achieve self-sufficiency by providing rental assistance, imparting life skills, and offering advocacy. Upon hearing the news, “Rita” was both excited and nervous. She and her kids hadn't known stability in some time. She applied to rentals and was denied due to her background. Magically, she came up on a low income waitlist. We encouraged her to follow that lead. With letters of advocacy, a larger support system and optimism, “Rita” began the process. She was denied the first pass, but with lots of encouragement, letters from staff at the West, her advocate from recovery, and a beautiful letter from herself requesting a reasonable accommodation, her denial was overturned, and “Rita” and her kids were able to move into a home on December 20th, just in time for time for Christmas.
It is with great joy and pride that I deliver our most recent program report for West Women’s and Children’s Shelter. The West has continued to increase resources needed to support our mission of creating a safe nurturing environment for survivors to realize their potential for healing and growth as we work together to end domestic violence. We recognize our successes would not be so great without the ongoing generosity of our donors and we sincerely appreciate your commitment to The West and survivors and their children.
In 2013, we have continued to reach goals set in our 2012-2015 strategic plan developed by the staff, advisory council, and volunteers for The West. Accomplishments include but are not limited to the following specified outcomes related to the identified priorities in our strategic plan.
Grow Awareness and Resources to Serve More Survivors
Strengthen Partnerships to Broaden the Continuum of Care
Develop and Sustain Our People
Strengthen Our Infrastructure
In fiscal year 2012/13 we served 251 women and children in the following emergency housing programs
Emergency Shelter-60 day stay with advocacy, case management, support groups, parenting support, child care, meal provisions, essential needs resources, access to 24/7 staffing, child care
54 women without children
Rapid Re-housing and Short Term Rental Assistance- 6 month rental subsidy with advocacy and case management, food boxes, access to support groups, home visits, employment support
1 woman without children
Women’s Housing Collaborative- permanent rental subsidy for chronically homeless domestic violence survivors with children, includes intensive case management, advocacy, tenant education, budgeting and debt reduction, support groups, employment assistance, home visits, and parenting support
2 women without children
Transitional Housing- 2 year supportive housing program which includes all of our onsite resources as survivors work towards their self-sufficiency
26 women without children
In addition, we answered over 4,280 crisis line calls; offering safety planning, providing resource and referral, and listening with survivors on our 24 hour crisis line. There were unfortunately 2,148 requests for domestic violence related shelter we were unable to serve due to limited space.
In July 2013, one of the calls we received on our crisis line was from “Diana” a 28 year old African American mother who previously resided in our emergency shelter in July 2008. “Diana” spoke of how after she left emergency shelter in 2008, she was stably housed with her two children. “Diana” was working and parenting her children for 6 months after leaving the shelter when her abuser and the father of her children re-entered her life under the guise of wanting to actively participate in the parenting of their children together. “Diana” reported feeling he was genuinely interested in the kids and she welcomed his participation in their lives. Within a short period of time, “Diana’s” abuser manipulated her into re-establishing their relationship and moved himself back into her life and her apartment by July 2009.
In June 2010 “Diana” birthed another baby with her abuser and during her pregnancy when she felt stuck, the abuse began again. “Diana” endured the abuse again for over three years before she was able to reach out for help again. The abuse included strangulation, hospital visits where she lied about the abuse, multiple threats to her life including her abuser stating “if the cops come to the door I will shoot you first”, head injury, damage to her apartment by her abuser, and her being locked in a closet. Police involvement and injury which required medical attention prompted her to leave her abuser, file for a restraining order, and seek shelter via our crisis line.
Staff of the West prioritized her need for shelter due to the high lethality of her situation and her history with the West. We provided accommodations for her and her now three children, all under the age of 9. “Diana” at first felt ashamed for having returned to her abuser after previously being served by the West, but staff quickly made her feel at ease and reiterated our appreciation that she called us for help.
“Diana” and her advocate made a plan to get all of her belongings out of her last apartment safely, ensured the protection order was served, and advocated for a domestic violence grant via DHS. The kids thrived at our summer children’s program and participated in all of our offered activities such as outings, back to school shopping, and child care. Working with these three vibrant and beautiful children, it was hard to tell they had been exposed to such trauma at the hands of their father. “Diana” clearly puts the needs of her kids first and made a plan for them to return to their neighborhood school, even though it involves extensive travel time and resources on her part. The school age kids are involved in the Boys and Girls Club, after school activities, and have not once missed a day of school so far this year.
When an a opportunity presented to make a referral to a long term supportive and subsidized housing program we instantly thought of “Diana”. The family faced housing barriers due to the domestic violence, unemployment (she left her job due to the abuse), and ongoing safety issues. Her Advocate worked to support her housing readiness, filed a reasonable accommodation addressing housing barriers due to domestic violence, and negotiated past debt utilizing client assistance funds. As of today, “Diana” and her children have been in shelter for over 90 days and plan to move into permanent housing within the next two weeks. “Diana” has actively participated in over 20 hours of domestic violence support group activities, 12 hours of Nurturing Mom’s group, worked with our Career Coach to revise her resume, and met with her Advocate at least weekly but many times more often to accommodate her pressing safety and housing needs.
In reviewing “Diana’s” file I am struck by what an amazing family this is in spite of the horrendous circumstances they have faced, and how it is such an honor to do this work and create a safe nurturing environment for survivors to realize their potential for healing and growth as we work together to end domestic violence. “Diana’s” story could have ended in a much more tragic way, but today they are safe and thriving, and throughout the years the West will continue to be a resource and wealth of support for her and her wonderful children. Much of the work we have done with “Diana” would not have been possible without the resources provided from our private funders.
Over the last period West Women's and Children's Shelter has continued to prioritize the needs of survivors in emergency shelter providing shelter, food services, advocacy, case management, crisis line, emergency rental assistance, clothing access, essential resources, transportation assistance, life skills classes, and crisis intervention.
In 2012, we served over 240 women and children with emergency housing resources, answered 4,423 crisis line calls, provided 2,770 child care hours, distributed 105 food boxes, and served 47,280 meals.
One of the participants we served over the last reporting period, was a mother who had experienced years of domestic violence, chemical dependency, poverty, diagnosed mental health, and intergenerational poverty. The mother "Lucy" was able to glean the skills through our domestic violence support groups separating her from her abusive husband. With her new found independence she recognized the need for chemical dependency treatment to address her ongoing addiction needs. "Lucy" was separated from her 2 year old daughter due to the addiction and domestic violence issues, and through the support of her Advocate and a safe and stable living environment she was able to safely reunite with her child at shelter. "Lucy" engaged in parenting support groups, life skills classes, addiction treatment, case management, and therapy during her stay at The West. "Lucy" secured safe and permanent housing and recently moved into her long term permanent housing. When "Lucy" left she was a completely changed woman than when she entered our doors, clean and sober, confident, independent, and with increased parenting skills. The services of The West impacted two lives, both "Lucy's" and her daughter's, reuniting them with hope for the future.
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