An update from Sanctuary for Families regarding COVID-19

How we’re supporting survivors and staff during this public health crisis.

Dear Sanctuary Community,

As the coronavirus spreads and fear increases, I wanted to share how we, at Sanctuary for Families, are approaching this crisis. This blog will be updated as the situation in New York evolves and our programs adapt.

COVID-19 impacts all of us but for victims of gender-based violence, the effects are compounded by the numerous challenges they already face.

  • Calls to self-quarantine may deter victims from seeking help, compelling them to cope at a time when stress levels are heightened.
  • Economic stress due to layoffs and lack of work elevates the risk of domestic violence
  • School closings are forcing many of our clients who are parents to secure childcare so they can continue to work, often for employers in the service-sector who offer little flexibility or sick time.
  • Immigrant survivors, who are already reluctant to access public services for fear of deportation, may avoid reporting symptoms or visiting Urgent Care. Those from countries with higher rates of infection may also experience more discrimination.
  • Families living in shelter or over-crowded apartment complexes with more shared spaces are having a harder time with social distancing.

Our clinical, shelter, economic empowerment, and legal services are critical for survivors, and Sanctuary is committed to ensuring they continue to have the access they need.

Program Updates

General

  • The health and safety of our clients and staff are our top priority.
  • In the interest of public health and safety, all staff whose job responsibilities allow are working remotely.
  • Program staff throughout the agency are reaching out to clients and providing services remotely, including counseling and legal assistance.
  • Our main office, shelters, and the EMPOWER Center remain open with limited staff.
  • Our hotlines have expanded hours, 9am – 5pm Monday through Friday.
  • The Family Justice Centers are closed but continue to refer survivors seeking help to Sanctuary and other NYC providers.

Counseling

  • Counselors, case managers and support staff are reaching out to all clients on their caseload to offer phone sessions.
  • Counselors are offering traditional counseling sessions through a HIPPA compliant tele-counseling platform to clients interested and able to participate.
  • Counselors are also offering more frequent phone check-ins to assess how survivors are coping with the pandemic.
  • Staff are safety planning with high risk clients and are in contact with our residential team to ensure we are up to date on shelter vacancies as emergencies arise.

Shelter

  • We are following the City’s guidelines for shelters.
  • Staff continue to go in person to the dwellings to meet with clients and address important case management needs like referrals for public assistance, completion of housing applications, legal referrals etc.
  • Face masks are being distributed, food is being stockpiled, and our operations team is cleaning frequently.
  • Our childcare and after-care staff are working with parents to engage their children who are out of school.

Economic Empowerment Program (EEP)

  • Survivors in the current EEP cohort are receiving laptops and hotspots so they can continue their training remotely.
  • Staff are providing crisis intervention services and are safety planning with high risk clients.
  • Staff are checking in on survivors in internships, if they’re able to work remotely, and those who been placed in jobs to ensure they are being supported.

Legal

  • All temporary orders of protection that have been issued by criminal and civil courts have been extended until the next court date.
  • Emergency Family Court hearings are being held virtually as of Thursday, March 26.
  • Eviction proceedings and all pending eviction orders have been suspended.
  • New York City’s immigration Courts remain open and filing deadlines for detained and non-detained cases remain in place.
    • Attorneys are struggling to put filings together remotely and are risking exposure by going to the post office or appearing in court.
    • USCIS has temporarily suspended routine in-person services, at least through May 3.

Our team is closely monitoring the virus’ spread and is developing contingency plans to protect staff and clients should the situation in New York continue to escalate.

We are also taking measures to minimize contact within our broader Sanctuary community. At this time, we are refraining from on-boarding new volunteers and accepting in-kind donations.

How You Can Help

Donate

If you would like to support survivors during this challenging time, please consider a making a donation to general donation page or our Fund for Vulnerable Families.

Your support will cover the cost of:

  • Basic hygiene items and help us meet the emerging needs of our clients
  • Food for our shelters and survivors who are struggling to cover the costs of stockpiling essentials
  • Remote learning platforms, laptops, and wifi hotspots for survivors
  • Video conferencing tools for our service providing staff
  • Deep cleanings which will help us protect our staff and clients

Help Spread the Word

Visit our COVID-19 Resources & Information page

We’d also appreciate any resources you see that may be of use to survivors of domestic violence, trafficking, and related forms of gender-violence. Email Info@sffny.org or tag us on social media!

We Couldn’t Do This Without You

Thanks to people like you, Sanctuary has consistently supported survivors in times of crisis throughout our 35-year history. We are confident that this will be no different. By staying vigilant, taking the necessary precautions, and supporting each other, we will get through this together.

Wishing you and your loved ones health and safety.

Warmly,

Hon. Judy H. Kluger
Executive Director

Sanctuary Applauds Gov. Cuomo for Granting Clemency to Monica Szlekovics

Read our press release

After 23 years in prison and incredible advocacy by Sanctuary partners Davis Polk & Wardwell, Monica Szlekovics has been granted clemency for the crime she was compelled to commit in 1996 due to years of abuse from her ex-husband. In granting her clemency, the State acknowledges the extenuating circumstances of her conviction and the traumatic impact of domestic violence on its victims.

Read our press release below:

 Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, Executive Director of Sanctuary for Families, New York State’s leading advocate and service provider for survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking and related forms of gender violence, issued the following statement:

“In granting clemency to domestic violence survivor Monica Szlekovics, who served 23 years of a 50-year to life sentence, Governor Andrew Cuomo has not only recognized her incredible personal transformation and achievements while in prison, but he has also acknowledged the extenuating circumstances of her conviction and the traumatic impact of domestic violence on its victims.”

“Sanctuary for Families views Monica’s clemency as a victory for survivors of intimate partner abuse everywhere.  We applaud the Governor for his insight, compassion and courage in making this important decision.”

Monica’s clemency case was handled by an extraordinary team of pro bono attorneys at Davis Polk & Wardwell, led by Special Counsel for Pro Bono Sharon Katz and Pro Bono Attorney Dara Sheinfeld, and including associates Jennifer Kalmanides and Peter Bozzo, former associates Brooklynn Moore and Jaryn Fields, and former legal assistant Emma Schwartz.  Partner Tatiana Martins also provided valuable assistance.  The team worked closely with outside co-counsel, Sara Bennett, whose prior clemency experience proved invaluable.  The team engaged with numerous leaders in the domestic violence community, who strongly advocated for Monica’s release.  The case was referred to Davis Polk by the Initiative for Incarcerated Survivors of Gender Violence, founded in 2017 by Dorchen Leidholdt, the Director of Sanctuary for Families’ Legal Center.

Like so many women across this country, Monica suffered years of excruciating and escalating domestic violence at the hands of her now ex-husband.  He choked her, threatened her with guns, beat her mercilessly—rupturing her eardrum and bruising her from head to toe, and subjected her to ongoing psychological torture.  Years of abuse led her to fear that her husband would kill her. Eventually, he kidnapped her at gunpoint and forced her—through a combination of physical threats, force, emotional abuse, and psychological manipulation—to accompany him on a violent crime spree in Rochester in search of an estranged girlfriend, who, herself, had previously fled from his violence.

Monica was sentenced to 50 years to life for her participation in crimes masterminded and instigated by her abusive husband.  At his trial, which post-dated hers, the prosecutor characterized Monica as “a pathetic, battered woman,” and acknowledged that her husband was a dangerously violent man who was “manipulating her, controlling her [and] dominating her.”

During her 23-year incarceration, Monica transformed herself from a broken, battered, drug-addicted young woman into a self-aware, confident agent of change.  Among other accomplishments, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology, cum laude, became a responsible and valued employee of the prison’s college program, consistently volunteered her time to mentor other women, and flourished as a talented and published writer and artist.

It’s #GivingTuesday! Create Your Facebook Fundraiser Today

Mark your calendars for #GivingTuesday on December 3rd!

On Tuesday, December 3, people from all around the world will join together to celebrate Giving Tuesday – a day of global charitable giving. We hope that you’ll choose to support Sanctuary’s life-saving work on this special day.

If you’d like to increase your impact, you can create a Facebook fundraiser to get your friends and family involved in our mission to end gender-based violence. It’s an easy and effective way to get the word out about our work.

Create my facebook fundraiser

 

Facebook is matching up to $100,000 for every non-profit in the US. You can make an incredible difference with just a few minutes’ work.

  1. Click the button above to create your own Facebook fundraiser today.
  2. Click ‘Select Nonprofit’ and search for Sanctuary for Families. You’ll know it’s us by our logo!
  3. Set your goal and tell your friends why you support us.
  4. Start sharing your fundraiser this evening and all through the end of the day tomorrow. Remember to thank your friends and family as they give

100% of donations made through Facebook go to the nonprofit organization; which means every dollar goes to our cause.

Sanctuary for Families is dedicated to the safety, healing, and self-determination of victims of domestic violence and related forms of gender violence. Through comprehensive services for our clients and their children, and through outreach, education, and advocacy, we strive to create a world in which freedom from gender violence is a basic human right.

5 Ways to Make a Difference This Giving Season

Mark your calendars for #GivingTuesday on December 3rd!

Every year, in the midst of the overwhelming holiday season, there is a day in which millions of people come together in the spirit of making a difference. Known as #GivingTuesday, this celebration of charitable giving harnesses the collective power of individuals and organizations to encourage philanthropy, celebrate generosity, and empower communities across the world.

This year’s Giving Tuesday falls on December 3, and we’re hoping that you’ll stand with survivors by giving to Sanctuary for Families. Last year, Sanctuary served over 10,000 adult and children survivors of domestic abuse, sex trafficking, and related forms of gender-based violence. Having your support will allow us to continue to provide life-changing services to thousands of families in New York City as they move from fear and abuse to safety and stability.

Here are five ways to support survivors this season:

1. Create a Facebook Fundraiser

Rally your friends and family to join our cause by starting your own #GivingTuesday fundraiser and TRIPLE your impact — Facebook is matching up to $100,000 in donations made to every non-profit in the US, plus all funds raised on Facebook in benefit of Sanctuary will be matched by one of our long-time supporters.

Make a difference with just a few minutes’ work — Click below:

CREATE MY FACEBOOK FUNDRAISER

Or, alternatively,

  1. Visit facebook.com/fund/SanctuaryforFamilies
  2. Click “Select Nonprofit” and search for Sanctuary for Families (you’ll know us from our leaf logo!)
  3. Set your fundraising goal and tell friends why you support us
  4. Start sharing your fundraiser and inviting others to join you in supporting our cause! Remember to thank your friends and family as they give (we’ll be doing so too).

You can also make a donation on Sanctuary’s Giving Tuesday Fundraiser. 100% of donations made through Facebook go to the nonprofit organization; which means every dollar you raise goes to our cause.

2. Support our Annual Appeal Campaign

At Sanctuary, we believe that in love there is no violence. Last year, through a range of comprehensive services, outreach and advocacy, we empowered over 10,000 survivors to rebuild their lives, educate our communities to prevent abuse, and champion policies locally, regionally and nationally that support survivors and their unique needs.

  Donate now 

Your year-end gift will offer survivors a chance at a life free from violence. Learn more about the impact you will have on the life of survivors like Ana:

 

3. Adopt a Family

Help us brighten the holidays for survivors of gender violence and their children by participating in our Adopt-a-Family program. This year, Sanctuary will once again share wish lists from families, with individuals and groups.

  SIGN UP 

All gifts must be mailed or delivered in-person to our lower Manhattan office by Friday, December 6th or earlier. Deliveries must be prearranged.

4. Organize a Holiday Drive

Every year, Sanctuary collects thousands of donated gifts and gift cards for the many clients we serve. Please consider asking your friends, family, or coworkers to participate in a holiday drive to collect gift cards or other items for adults, teens or children.

 

contact us to learn more

The deadline to deliver items collected through holiday drives is on or before Friday, December 6th.

5. Be a Holiday Helper

Sanctuary needs help sorting, organizing and wrapping the wonderful donations we receive. We will host Holiday Helpers Monday through Friday (10:30AM – 1:00PM and 2:00-4:30PM) from December 2nd through December 19th at our Lower Manhattan location.

contact us to learn more

Questions? Please contact us at info@sffny.org