At the end of 2016, we received a call from “Valerie”. She had heard that we needed furniture for families who were entering our transitional housing program. When our donation coordinator came to pick up furniture at Valerie’s house, she told him this story:
I am donating this furniture back to Safe Harbor. Years ago, your organization saved my life – my children and I came into shelter in the middle of the night with the clothes on our backs and nothing else. Weeks later, when we were preparing to leave your shelter to enter your transitional housing program, Safe Harbor gave me this furniture so that our first apartment could feel like a home. At that time, I wasn’t confident that I’d be able to make it on my own. My husband had controlled my every move and every dollar for so long. We were starting from scratch. But, Safe Harbor helped me to start a new life. You gave us safe shelter, safe housing (and the temporary financial assistance we needed to keep it), counseling and support. I can’t repay you for any of that. But, thanks to you, we are safe, free, and thriving now. I’m so grateful that we no longer need this furniture, so that I can give it back to another family who needs it.
Safe Harbor’s transitional housing program has existed since 2009 through a grant made possible by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Since this program’s inception, we have helped 88 families (like Valerie and her children) with rental assistance, case management, financial empowerment education, and job training to overcome barriers, gain independence, and begin new lives free from abuse. Leaving an abusive relationship is incredibly complex and dangerous. When victims and their children have access to affordable housing and support services to build financial independence, their ability to thrive skyrockets.
News reports share that the Trump administration is considering a budget proposal that would defund the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). VAWA offers 25 grant programs working to address and reduce domestic violence, sexual assault and dating violence. In addition to providing vital funding for Safe Harbor’s transitional housing program (HAP), VAWA also provides a portion of funding for Safe Harbor’s counseling program for victims of domestic violence.
Most domestic violence and sexual assault agencies in South Carolina receive VAWA funding. VAWA grants not only fund direct services for victims and their children but also projects that provide additional resources in rural areas, enhance services for children, youth and college students, and increasing law enforcement’s ability to respond to violence against women, to name just a few. If this budget proposal is approved, victims would no longer have access to many of the vital services that Safe Harbor and other victims’ assistance organizations provide throughout our nation.
The Violence Against Women Act costs each American taxpayer a total of $1.48 per year – less than a single cup of coffee. Eliminating this funding would not only cripple most domestic violence agencies’ ability to serve victims of domestic violence, but it would certainly assure us that deaths due to domestic violence to increase, not only in the Upstate and in SC where we have always been ranked in the top ten, but for our entire country. Saving $1.48 per taxpayer per year is not worth thousands of our sisters’ and daughters’ lives.
It was only a couple of weeks ago that Safe Harbor released its Intention Statement for 2017. Already, we are challenged to live up to these words.
Safe Harbor commits to continue our work with victims and in our communities no matter the political, economic or social climate. This does not mean that we will “bury our heads in the sand” or “put on blinders” as we work with individuals who are all too familiar with oppression and hurt. On the contrary, our work to influence a culture where everyone is safe and valued in their relationships has never been more important as it is today.
Please join us in taking action steps to secure the Violence Against Women Act and the life-saving services it provide for victims of violence and their children.
Learn more about how you can take action: https://safeharborsc.org/taking-action/