Guest Blog by Katelyn Gorski, Communications Assistant at SafePlace.
Pictured left to right, Give Realty Agent Sarka Mraz, Denise Irizarry, and SafePlace Community Relations Coordinator Steven Olender.
On June 4, Give Realty donated $782 to SafePlace on behalf of first-time homebuyer Denise Irizarry.
SafePlace is an Austin non-profit ending domestic violence through safety, healing, prevention and social change. SafePlace is most widely known for our 105 bed shelter for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. We also run a variety of other services including counseling, community education and a 24-hour hotline for those in crisis–512.267.SAFE or relay/VRS for the Deaf community.
The connection between the work of Give Realty and that of SafePlace is a strong one. Give Realty clients like Denise are embarking on a new phase in their lives when they purchase a house. By choosing to donate to SafePlace, they are also sharing this moment in their lives with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault who are beginning to rebuild theirs. It’s no wonder that more Give Realty home buyers have chosen to donate to SafePlace than any other organization, for a total of $9,571.90 since Give Realty was founded.
The need for SafePlace is staggering. In 2012, Austin had more than 9,000 reported cases of domestic violence and over 900 reported rapes and sexual assaults. When you look at these numbers, please do so with the understanding that research estimates that less than 20% of rapes and cases of domestic violence are actually reported. Unfortunately, the need in Austin is so great that our shelter is always full, and there is always a waiting list. In 2012, SafePlace had 861 emergency shelter clients, 86% of whom reported exiting to a safe location when they left us. These 861 clients spent a combined total 34,887 nights in the shelter.
The survivors who seek refuge at SafePlace have lost their sense of home and safety. We do what we can to give that back to our clients at every step in their process. Our hospital and legal advocates ensure that no one who seeks help is alone through the process of going through a sexual assault examination, or reporting and prosecuting a rape. Our shelter, built after numerous focus groups with survivors, is divided into six clusters, each of which has a shared kitchen space and living area. This helps build a community among survivors, leading to 78% of adult clients reporting a reduced feeling of isolation. The kitchen space also gives our clients the autonomy of cooking their own food and eating meals they like. This is a small act of power for someone escaping a situation in which he or she felt powerless. Through free counseling services at SafePlace, they learn they are not alone and that the abuse is something that happened to them and not something they have caused.
Survivors often must choose between returning to live with their abuser and becoming homeless. Some residents transitioning out of the shelter move to our Supportive Housing Program, which offers longer term housing and also trainings to prepare survivors for their lives post-shelter. There were 196 residents (adults and kids) in our supportive housing program in 2012.
It’s important to note, SafePlace serves more children than adults. We have an on-site child development center and K-12 charter school so that children fleeing violent situations will not risk being the target of an abusive parent and will not fall behind academically. We want everyone living here to feel as safe and comfortable as possible at all times.
We are so grateful for all the Give Realty program has given to our clients. So much of the work we do depends on donations. The amount donated from Denise’s purchase covers three days of operating costs for our school. To learn more about the many programs we have at SafePlace visit us www.safeplace.org or follow us on social media. Let’s keep Austin SAFE.