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DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIMS FIND SAFETY AND SUPPORT AT HOPE’S DOOR

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March 7, 2022

Within our rivertown communities there are many charitable organizations that aim to benefit various segments of the population. They feed the disadvantaged, assist those with special needs, including refugees, further education and play for children, protect persons from abuse, provide services and companionship for seniors and protect our ecosystem.

Recognizing the many and varied accomplishments rendered by these organizations for our communities, The Hudson Independent is now providing this special section in which each describes what they do and whom they help.   

Picture, for a moment, a woman on the brink of making the hardest decision of her life…. There is nothing more terrifying than facing your abuser, but especially when isolated with them 24/7 as many have found themselves at various times throughout this pandemic.  There is nothing better than finding a way out of the situation.

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Sandy called the Hope’s Door hotline and within 24 hours she and her two children were sitting at the kitchen table of our shelter, drinking cups of cocoa and holding each other tightly.

Over the course of those few hours, many encouraging words were spoken and many important steps were taken by our counselors and attorneys to guide Sandy and her children out of danger.  And there is so much more work to be done to try to restore their hope and joy.

Remarkably, our clients can and do find a way out.  The women, children and men who face surging incidents of domestic violence start their journey to safety by calling the Hope’s Door hotline at 888-438-8700.  From there, our hotline staff first assess the level of immediate danger faced by the caller.  Depending on how our key questions are answered by the caller, we determine if they need to be referred for support to the Westchester County Domestic Violence High Risk Team, which includes local police and hospital staff as well as the Hope’s Door High Risk Coordinator.

The other option is for our hotline specialist to instead begin safety planning directly with the caller and then refer the caller either to our temporary residential shelter or our Community Services counseling team for ongoing support.  Often, our counselors will reach out to a lawyer in our Hope’s Door Legal Center for assistance with child custody, orders of protection, and/or divorce proceedings for the victim.

All of these services we provide absolutely free of charge to victims of domestic violence.  We are able to do so because of federal, state, and county grants as well as corporate and private donations.

In December, Hope’s Door, along with other victim-serving organizations in the County, received word from the New York State Office of Victim Services (OVS) that we should anticipate cuts of 10 – 15 % when they award the next round of contracts to start on October 1, 2022.  Moreover, OVS canceled the fifth and final year of existing legal service contracts that were not due to expire until September 30, 2023. This is a devastating cut of $403,000 for our Hope’s Door Legal Center.  Not only are these combined cuts a crushing blow but they come at a time of enormous increase in demand for our services.  Hope’s Door experienced an 89 % increase in the number of persons we served last year.

This situation is not expected to be a long-term problem facing New York State.  The Federal Crime Victims Fund (CVF) which fuels state Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grants awarded by OVS, is expected to be replenished in the next two to three years as a result of the VOCA-Fix legislation signed into law by President Biden last summer.  Since then, more than $350 million has been deposited into the CVF – a positive sign that the VOCA-Fix legislation will achieve its goal of replenishing the fund.  However, it will take some time for the fund to restore to a level that would permit all state VOCA grants to return to earlier levels.  Understanding this, an increasing number of states are taking action to bridge this temporary gap in funding, and the entire Hope’s Door senior management team is working with our sister agencies to urge New York State legislators to join in that necessary endeavor, using state surplus fund or American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.  There is no guarantee that we will prevail.

Thus, we anticipate that we will not only need to replace the $403,000 of the Legal Services grant, but with the potential 10 – 15% cuts in County support, may also need to cover $127,000 to $190,000 more in the coming year.   We desperately need community support to keep our legal services fully operational, so that we can continue to serve more than 250 survivors with their legal needs in the coming year.

For 42 years, Hope’s Door has been working to end domestic violence and to empower its victims to achieve safety, independence and healing from the trauma of abuse.  In addition to the services outlined above, we also educate Westchester youth in more than 17 school districts about healthy relationships through our Love Shouldn’t Hurt program.  We also empower survivors who are ready to rejoin the work force, by funding vocational and professional training, assisting with resumes and interview techniques, purchasing clothing and uniforms, providing childcare, and funding transportation to job interviews and other important, job-related meetings and activities.

Direct donations to Hope’s Door are made through its website, hopesdoorny.org, and further information can be secured from Barbara Turk, Director of Development and Community Relations at bturk@hopesdoorny.org,

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