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
- Developed two videos which represent our population and our services to the community
- Added 102 new donors to our database via our participation in the Willamette Week Give!Guide
- Increased ways donors can give online
- Advocated within state government to maintain and increase funding for domestic violence services statewide
Strengthen Partnerships to Broaden the Continuum of Care
- Implemented housing workshops for all residents to learn more about current housing options and how to reduce housing barriers
- Increased healthy options for residents, providing water bottles, nursing support (including breast pumps, rocking chairs, nursing pillows), and expanded our garden
- Weekly onsite well being classes (yoga, tai chi, exercise and movement)
- Staff specialized in reunification available to support mothers to be safely with their children (Five families were reunified at The West during the last reporting period)
Develop and Sustain Our People
- We have seen no turnover during the last reporting in our staffing and only made one new hire, which was for on-call support
- Budgeted for a plan to increase staff salaries to a livable wage during the FY13/14
- Staff completed training in Non-violent Communication and Trauma Informed Care
Strengthen Our Infrastructure
- Replaced the furniture in all of our community areas
- Purchased new cribs and mattresses to replace our existing recalled furnishings for infants
- Replaced our commercial dishwasher reducing ongoing maintenance expenses related to repair
- Completed the repair of sewer pipes on our property, eliminating ongoing maintenance issues and bringing into compliance with the Portland Water Bureau.
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.