A message from CEO Michele Boronkas about moving into a new year amidst a pandemic, with hope.
December 2020 has arrived. It has come bearing the tread marks of a pandemic, racial reckoning, economic turmoil and unprecedented increases in the intensity and incidence of domestic violence. As a result, Safe + Sound Somerset’s 24/7 Call and Text Hotline experienced a 40% increase in calls since March, our trauma informed counseling program has been operating at maximum capacity with a 25% increase in referrals over 2019, and our legal team has been stretched to accommodate a 35% increase in service demand from survivors needing advocacy and education. Survivors are feeling more desperate for safe refuge, staff are navigating complex trauma caseloads, and the reality of reduced resources grows with each passing day.
But I’d like to tell this story in another way because, as a trauma-informed, strengths-based organization, we chose to focus and invest in the opportunities also inherent in this crisis. So, let’s start again.
December 2020 has arrived! It has arrived bearing the unexpected gifts of change, creativity, innovation, resilience and success. The unanticipated increase in demand by survivor for services has been met with professionalism, expertise, grace and compassion – without a gap in access. Hotline calls and texts were answered 24/7, counseling sessions were completed, legal and family advocacy were was sustained, and residents of Victoria House were housed safely, from both abusers and a deadly virus. All occurring as the upheaval of 2020 whirled outside our doors and inside our homes.
Our resiliency did not stop there. The pandemic shook our organization’s operational foundation. We faced critical remote infrastructure and operational challenges, juxtaposed against lost revenue, that demanded comprehensive solutions, if we were to continue serving survivors in this new reality. So, we took a deep breath (or several) and we did what we were called to do. During the last nine months, Safe+Sound Somerset has transformed from a 100% face to face, paper dependent, brick and mortar infrastructure to a fully remote, virtually engaging, technology-based organization–while maintaining our client-centered, trauma-informed focus.
We have adopted progressive services such as telehealth counseling and virtual case management; created online community education and trauma-informed trainings to build the capacity of partner organizations; launched virtual court advocacy; and engaged in remote financial coaching. Furthermore, we embarked on three new programs during this pandemic: our new Family Advocacy program supports
basic needs; the Domestic Violence Housing First initiative provides safe and affordable housing for survivors and their children; and we are a founding partner in the new Bound Brook Family Success program which holistically supports the health and wellness needs of immigrant families.
Despite dwindling resources, we have evolved our development, client data management, financial processes, file maintenance, and communications systems to affordable and technologically secure platforms. These important initiatives guarantee continuity of all business operations, regardless of location, ensure client and data confidentiality, and provide a sustainable foundation for S+SS’s infrastructure as we prepare for 21st century success.
Last but far from least, we jumped into new online fundraising strategies that integrate our new virtual reality with the steadfastness of our donors and supporters.
These evolutions continue to unearth opportunities and efficiencies that make us a stronger, a more responsive and effective survivor serving organization. This is critical to us, as we invest our time, energy and resources in achieving our mission of empowering survivors of domestic abuse and engaging the community to end the cycle of violence.
I beam with incredible pride as I share these highlights, the story of how our board of trustees and staff teams, when faced with unprecedented, adversity, leaned in and chose to redefine the model of Safe+Sound Somerset with as much passion and dedication as we afford survivors every day. No one may miss 2020, but it will be known as the year that S+SS redefined its commitment to creativity and and innovation in our delivery of services to survivors.
We welcome 2021 with a reinforced foundation embedded with resilience, grace and compassion to support, serve and sustain survivors of domestic abuse in Somerset County. Thank you for your support and for being part of this transformation for survivors. May your new year be filled with moments of resilience, grace and peace.
Michele E. Boronkas