A 21st Century Journalism Project

Seeking Help, Seeking Shelter

In Organizations on April 9, 2012 at 1:47 pm

BY KELSEY HARTLESS

Graduate student Jason Harr has come a long way since his mother’s “situation” as he calls it. He says his mother would not have gotten the help she so desperately needed if it wasn’t for SafeNet.

“I haven’t used SafeNet personally…but my mother did. I feel like that’s pretty personal you know? The people there helped her out when she really had no one else. She doesn’t know where she would be today without that organization. They helped her out so much with everything and most importantly, they made her feel safe, Harr said.”  

What is SafeNet?

SafeNet logo

Courtesy of SafeNet

SafeNet is an organization that is ‘committed to ending domestic violence, affirming human dignity and delivering comprehensive direct services to victims of domestic violence. SafeNet provides sanctuary, support, education and advocacy.’

In addition to their focus statement, SafeNet is also the only accredited domestic violence shelter in Erie, PA, according to Director of Education Robin Young.

Who Does SafeNet Help?

SafeNet helps women, men, and children when they need it most. Specifically, SafeNet helped 1600 women, 383 children, and 90 men in 2011. Those numbers are up from 2010, especially when it comes to children using SafeNet’s services. The emergency shelter is a safe, confidential place for victims and their children to stay. Since these numbers are so large, SafeNet can’t provide for all of these men, women and children without some extra help.

Some of the extra help they need comes from the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest PA. The Food Bank,  serves over 72,000 people in Northwestern PA each year, thousands of those residing in Erie, PA. Paul Friend, Warehouse Director at the Second Harvest Food Bank, overseas where the food in the warehouse is distributed, and sees that some of it, several times a week, gets distributed to SafeNet. Donna Kindow is in charge of ordering the food the shelter receives every week, including plenty of canned goods, such as vegetables and lunch meats that can be made into sandwiches, no matter what time of day. Friend explains, “[Kindow] orders things from us, but SafeNet also receives a lot of deli foods, sandwiches, leftovers from places like Sheetz- like stuff to have for families so in between meals or late night, there’s always something they can get to eat.” In addition, SafeNet also receives leftovers from the Erie City School Districts, such as leftovers foods from the day’s lunch specials and the little milks that are close to expiration date.

Services Offered by SafeNet

Besides the emergency shelter, SafeNet also offers many other services, such as the Bridge House, supported independent living environment apartments for women and their children who have been left homeless as a result of a domestic violence situation. Families in the Bridge House work toward self- sufficiency, as well as finding safe and affordable housing. The TLC or Transitional Living Center is similar to the Bridge House, the main difference in the TLC housing is it’s for homeless mothers ages 16 to 22 and their children. The women in the TLC housing work toward not only finding affordable housing, but also developing parenting skills and also providing for their family on their own.

In addition to housing, SafeNet also offers a legal representation program, where attorneys and advocates work together with victims through processes such as the Protection from Abuse (PFA) and other legal programs as needed. Counselors and advocates are also available 24/7 to provide immediate help for victims of domestic violence. Counselors can be reached a variety of ways, the quickest way for those who aren’t yet at the shelter being the hotline, (814) 454-8161.

SafeNet and the Workforce

In the end, all of the supported living services offered by SafeNet are preparing victims of domestic violence for the same thing: to leave the shelter with the tools to enter the workforce, taking that necessary first step to get their life back on track.

According to Young, “the economy is definitely a stresser [for these men and women]. Anyone is at risk anytime.”

This was the case for Karen Fry, former victim of domestic violence who, with the help of SafeNet, is now employed and once again making ends meet to provide for her and her son.

“Oh yeah with that organization [SafeNet] I wouldn’t be where I am today. I really mean that. They picked me back up on my feet and I am here today with several jobs, back in the workforce, to care for me and my son. I tell everyone- I couldn’t be more grateful, Fry said.”

A “special organization”

Year by year, SafeNet continues to help victims of domestic violence by providing numerous services to help them reach those goals and eventually, end up on their own.

“ I try to talk about my experience and really get it known that domestic violence is a real problem. It does happen and it really takes a special organization to pick people up and get them through it, said Harr.”

The “special organization” Harr continues to referr to, over a decade after his family’s experience, is SafeNet.

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