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Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business

February 2004 Issue

Nonprofit aims to assist domestic violence victims

Focus put on life after the shelter


By Jennifer Lanning Smith


   After Columbia Basin Domestic Violence Services (CBDVS) folded last year, at least one group was worried that some important advocacy programs might be going to be going by the wayside.

   Despite the fact that an emergency shelter had remained intact, one of its domestic violence counselors and two shelter advocates felt programs outside of the shelter, such as support groups, were being neglected.

   And with Benton and Franklin County law enforcement agencies collectively reporting 1,736 instances of domestic violence in their jurisdictions in 2002, the advocates felt it was crucial to ensure that such services didnt disappear.

   Last summer, the group of employees broke away from CBDVS and began Silver Linings, a nonprofit company that aims to provide help outside of a shelter setting for victims of domestic violence.

   Silver Linings began offering support groups within the community in September 2003, and already it has more than 10 groups that meet monthly.

   Our agency saw first hand what the gaps in the community were because we all were involved somehow within the local shelter, said Tanya Martinez, president of Silver Linings.

   The companys approach focuses on education, but its specific goal is to provide transitional housing to serve clients once they leave the shelter setting, according to Martinez.

   She believes that in the past, local domestic violence advocacy has often overlooked remaining involved with its clients after they leave the 30-day crisis shelter.

   What we started to see was once people left the shelter, there really wasnt any follow up to whether they went back to their abuser or what had happened, said Martinez.

   And even in cases where the victim didnt return to the abuser, they often needed more help with getting established on their own than they were provided, she said.

   Thirty days is not a lot of time, said Martinez, adding that when a client leaves the shelter, they may still be waitlisted for housing and other social services benefits that they need to get started on their own.

   The shelter atmosphere is completely different than once you get out of the shelter.  At the shelter, you have everything there, she said.  A lot of the clients were seeing have never even had their own money.

   With that in mind, the Silver Linings advocates plan to have transitional housing, where residents can stay for up to 18 months, in place in Richland, Kennewick, Pasco and West Richland within the next five years.

   The four-bedroom houses would be placed in neighborhoods that are close to a school and within walking distance to a bus stop.  The homes would typically be shared by two to four families and have a counselor available 24 hours a day.

   Ultimately, Martinez said once the residents are able, they might begin to pay a subsidized rent rate.  However, because the housing will be funded through grants, they would get the money back when they moved out.

   Our main goal is to empower them to do it on their own, said Martinez. Well give them all the avenues (continued to right column)

Silver Linings vice president, Laura Cassidy, talks to teenagers at the Teen Dating Violence Awareness Session at the Young Women's Conference in January at Columbia Basin College. Silver Linings aims to help victims of domestic violence during the transition period after they leave the shelter.
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continued from left column

and all the resources, and then were kind of like that watchful eye.

   Each month, she plans to have a self-esteem program held in the transitional homes, along with a family night.  Guest speakers and self-defense seminars would also be scheduled throughout the year.

   Right now, Martinez said the staff and volunteers at Silver Linings are in the process of developing the programs they will need to coincide with the transitional housing.  Those programs might also include support groups, legal and medical advocacy and after-shelter follow-ups, she said.

   Every program that were working on now, will be used at the transitional houses, she said.

   The first of the transitional homes is expected to be built in east Pasco in about six months, according to Martinez.  The rest of the transitional housing should be built within the next three to five years.

   So far, most of Silver Linings funding has come from private donations; however, the company is now concentrating on acquiring the grant funding needed to get the transitional houses up and running.

   The ultimate goal, according to Martinez, is to use grant funding to acquire and maintain the homes, while still using private donations to support the programs.

   Martinez is also working on the community outreach aspect of the business, and she is currently trying to gather a group of about 20 volunteers who are each willing to commit six hours a month to Silver Linings.

   The company is also training three teenage volunteers who will be certified to go into local schools and talk to other teens who have witnessed or experienced domestic violence.

   Martinez also hopes the business community will get involved by identifying and referring victims of domestic violence to Silver Linings.  She is currently holding a series of informative seminars at local businesses.

   Once we educate people, they arent going to get into those bad choices, or if theyre in the bad choice right now, and they feel stuck, they know that theres an outlet, said Martinez. So they can get out of it, and then they dont turn into a statistic.

   Silver Linings will begin an 11-week volunteer training session on February 23.  For more information, call (509) 946-8670.