food insecurity; food grants; new york city

A Survivor-Centered Approach to Food Insecurity During COVID-19

With the support of our corporate and institutional partners, from mid-March through October, Sanctuary distributed over $250,000 to more than 425 families for emergency food, supplies, rent, medicine, clothing, and more.

Food insecurity, an important risk indicator for intimate partner violence (IPV), has skyrocketed over the last year due to COVID-19. The ongoing loss of jobs and wages, coupled with safety and mobility issues, has forced thousands of households across New York to cut down on the quantity and quality of their food consumption. The closures of NYC schools and the overburdening of food banks have further exacerbated the demand for food and groceries. As a result, roughly one in four New Yorkers is experiencing hunger.

For many survivors, food insecurity was already an issue before the pandemic. Researchers have found a strong connection between IPV and food insecurity. Evidence shows that:

  1. Financial abuse – or the control of one’s ability to acquire, use and maintain money by an intimate partner – can lead to food insecurity;
  2. Survivors who escape abuse disproportionately rely on public assistance and low-wage jobs for survival and thus face a higher risk of food insecurity;
  3. Factors that give rise to food insecurity, such as poverty and financial stress, also serve as indicators for increased risk of violence.

As one of New York State’s leading providers of comprehensive services for survivors of gender violence, Sanctuary plays a critical role in helping New York’s most marginalized families find and maintain safety and stability. We have always had clients who struggle to afford or access food while escaping abusive relationships. Since mid-March, however, we have seen food insecurity skyrocket to become the single most pressing need for the thousands of families we serve.

Some food resources have become more accessible in NYC than in the first months of the crisis, however, there are still many barriers to food security for our clients including:

  1. Ongoing job loss and lost wages;
  2. Undocumented and partially-documented immigrant clients cut out of public resources and continued fear of ICE raids in public spaces like food banks;
  3. Limited options and timing restrictions for those who do qualify for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits;
  4. Long lines, pre-selected options, and limited hours and locations for food banks making access difficult for clients with limited mobility, childcare concerns, inflexible work hours, and dietary issues.
  5. Additionally, the looming housing crisis will undoubtedly exacerbate food insecurity for many forced to choose between paying rent and buying food.

Recognizing the urgency of the issue, we have kept food pantries at our five shelters and main office fully stocked throughout the pandemic. To meet the increased demand, support non-shelter clients, and protect the safety of clients and staff throughout COVID-19, we have developed a more flexible and survivor-centered approach to food grant distribution. New standardized guidelines for distribution of food grants, developed by staff across program and administrative departments, are based on household size and receipt of SNAP. We also created a shorter, digitized grant request process that improves transparency, enables remote access, allows for easier purchasing via credit card, and gets money for food into the hands of our clients more quickly. Most importantly, we dramatically expanded use of electronic gift cards and grocery delivery services.

We are proud to announce that through this new approach, and with the support of our corporate and institutional partners, from mid-March through October, Sanctuary distributed over $250,000 to more than 425 families for emergency food, supplies, rent, medicine, clothing, and more via electronic gift cards and delivery services like Amazon Prime, Walmart, Fresh Direct, and Target. By expanding the receipt and delivery options available to survivors, our approach recognizes that clients know what is best for their families—whether that be culturally-specific foods or more dietary options. This approach also addresses the inequities that result in food deserts and delivery dead-zones in some communities — inequities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Even with the successful delivery of our services and our significantly expanded emergency food grants program over the last nine months, we know that demand will only keep growing. Given the spike in domestic violence and ongoing economic crisis, we anticipate a long-term need for support and services even after the city reopens. Despite the ongoing challenges, Sanctuary will continue to utilize existing private funding sources and identify new opportunities to meet our clients’ evolving food needs throughout and beyond the COVID-19 crisis.

Our sincere gratitude goes out to The Gerstner Family Foundation, Robin Hood Relief Fund, NYC COVID-19 Response and Impact Fund, Brooklyn Community Foundation, No Kid Hungry, Tikkun Olam Foundation, Capital One, Monday.com, the Sunshine Foundation, and French-American Aid for Children, for supporting Sanctuary’s client emergency grants programs during these unprecedented times.

Our Work Continues Beyond January 20th

“While we continue to process and reckon with the state of our country, now is also the time we must recommit to the work of ending violence and oppression in all forms,” says Sanctuary ED Judy H. Kluger.

What we witnessed in our nation’s capital last Wednesday was a disgraceful act of treason, a terrifying display of white supremacy and anti-Semitism, a clear example of white male privilege, and the greatest attack on our democracy that many of us have seen in our lifetimes.

While we continue to process and reckon with the state of our country, now is also the time we must recommit to the work of ending violence and oppression in all forms. What occurred on January 6th is the product of 245 years of systemic racism and mirrors American history. On the same day that the remarkable mobilization of Black and Brown voters resulted in the historic election of Georgia’s first Black and Jewish senators, white insurrectionists, falsely claiming voter fraud in cities with large Black and Brown populations, carried confederate flags through the halls of the Capitol for the first time in our country’s history. The forces of white supremacy and patriarchy will continue to exert themselves long after January 20th when the Biden-Harris administration begins.

So our work continues, with renewed urgency. The next four years have the potential to be transformational but only with concerted attention and effort. For over 35 years, Sanctuary for Families has been there for survivors of gender-based violence — providing the tools and support survivors need to reunite and protect their families, secure safe and permanent housing, attain living-wage career-track jobs and become leaders in their communities. Our support and advocacy will continue with a special focus on:

  • The immediate end of asylum policies instituted by the Trump administration, the reinstatement of DACA, and comprehensive immigration reform to benefit our clients, over 70% of whom are immigrants.
  • State legislation that will deliver greater social services and protections to people in the sex trade, a population that is disproportionately made up of Black and Brown women and girls, LGBTQ+ people, and immigrants.
  • Implementation of the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act, a New York State law that grants judges the discretion to sentence survivors, whose abuse or exploitation was a significant contributing factor to the crime they committed, to reduced or alternative sentencing.
  • Sanctuary’s survivor leadership policies to ensure survivor voices are reflected at all levels, including our Board of Directors.
  • Sanctuary’s anti-racism work and review of our accountability, hiring, and compensation policies.

I urge each of you to consider how you can counter the forces of white supremacy and patriarchy which give rise to gender-based violence. Take a look at this guide from Indivisible for suggestions on addressing racism and implicit bias within you and your communities. If you aren’t already involved, reach out to us to learn more about how you can support survivors of abuse.

Warmly,

Hon. Judy Harris Kluger,
Executive Director

Cahill Attorneys Advocate on Behalf of Domestic Violence Survivor and Her Daughter

At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary is honoring a team of attorneys from Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP for their compassionate and devoted pro bono representation of “Alison” to obtain an order of protection and a judgment of divorce.

Silvia Marroquin is an associate in the international arbitration practice of Chaffetz Lindsey in New York and a member of Sanctuary’s Pro Bono Council.

At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary is honoring a team of attorneys from Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP for their compassionate and devoted pro bono representation of “Alison” to obtain an order of protection and a judgment of divorce.  The team consisted of associates Tobin Raju, Andrea Abarca, and George Harris.

In November 2018, Alison—a full-time health worker and mother of two—sought an order of protection against her then-husband from whom she had separated.  For over five years, Alison endured verbal, emotional, and physical abuse towards herself and her young daughter.  Her strength and warm-hearted personality never dimmed.  But, the continuous stalking, messaging, and verbal threats from her abuser that followed her separation, frightened and upset Alison and eventually led her to pursue legal action.

In December 2018, the team from Cahill, consisting of Tobin Raju, Andrea Abarca and George Harris, took on Alison’s representation and successfully secured a final one-year order of protection on consent for Alison and her young daughter, who had been a witness to repeated physical and verbal abuse by Alison’s then-husband.

The entire team showed an unparalleled commitment to the case and were always available to Alison.  Their desire to develop a supportive and sincere relationship with Alison bore fruit, as she became more comfortable talking about difficult issues which allowed the team to develop a deeper knowledge of her case.  Throughout their representation of Alison, the team met with Alison, and diligently collected and organized the numerous police reports, screenshots, photographs, and other potential evidence to be used at trial.  The team’s precision and care in preparing Alison alleviated her anxiety about the trial. Moments before trial, opposing counsel initiated settlement discussions.  The team’s hard work paid off and culminated in their successful advocacy during settlement negotiations and the hearing, eventually obtaining a satisfactory outcome for Alison.  In fact, the court referee was at first reluctant to include Alison’s daughter in the order of protection, because she is not the abuser’s child, but Tobin’s advocacy convinced the court referee that it was appropriate and necessary.

Not surprisingly, in June 2019, the team immediately volunteered to represent Alison in her divorce, and successfully obtained a final uncontested judgment of divorce from the abuser in November 2019.

Tobin and the team were some of the most responsive and communicative pro bono attorneys I have worked with. Tobin proactively reached out to the client on a regular basis, sending me updates on the case, as well as other issues arising in the client’s life. Tobin and the team were totally eager and happy to help the client with the uncontested divorce as well, which the client was thrilled to receive,” said Sanctuary Senior Staff Attorney Lindsey M. Song.

“When I asked the client for feedback for Tobin and the team, she said, ‘I could not have asked for any better [team]! You helped me through this time from beginning to finish. I am grateful to you all.’”  — Lindsey Song.

Despite facing so many challenges, Alison’s unflappable strength was truly impressive and key to the outcome of the case.  Tobin said, “We could not have asked for a better client to work with. She is an incredibly courageous person, and I was honored to work with her.”  The relationship is such that months after the case was resolved, Alison and the team continue to be in touch.

Reflecting on their work, the team expressed that they were especially grateful for having the opportunity to work with Lindsey M. Song, Senior Staff Attorney at Sanctuary for Families, and to have been put in the position to advocate on Alison’s behalf.

It was important to have someone with Lindsey’s experience with survivors–not only in terms of strategy but also to understand the nuances of how trauma can affect memory and how we, as attorneys, should ask questions to help our client remember the details that make her case. All this, while navigating the client-relationship to be both effective and compassionate,” said Andrea Abarca.

Lindsey gave us enough autonomy while walking us through every requirement and working with us on the best strategy for the case.  She trusted our instincts and our abilities.” — Tobin Raju.

It was extremely helpful to be able to have guidance from someone that would speak to the nature of how the court would react and that helped us prepare Alison to be ready for a tough referee,” said George Harris.

 The team described this as a unique experience that was extremely rewarding, personally and professionally, because it allowed them to grow as attorneys by developing essential skills and taking on more responsibilities while supporting a client moving on with her life and family.

Join us at our virtual Above & Beyond virtual celebration on October 29, 2020, as we honor the outstanding pro bono work of Tobin, Andrea, and George. Click here to RSVP for free.

If you can’t join us, but would like to support Sanctuary for Family’s work, please consider making an Above & Beyond donation here.

“We won’t settle for tokens.” Remembering the Great Ruth Bader Ginsburg

A giant of American jurisprudence and a relentless champion for the rights of women and minorities, Justice Ginsburg embodied the values that lie at the core of Sanctuary’s mission to end gender-based violence.

We at Sanctuary for Families join in mourning the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a pioneering advocate for civil rights and gender equality and a jurist of historic stature. We commit ourselves to honor her legacy by carrying on her work and protect it from being undone.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a true feminist icon and tenacious dissenter, paved the road for women in law and changed the culture for women in America. A daughter of a Russian immigrant, she began her legal career in 1956 at Harvard as one of only nine women who were famously shamed for “taking the place of a man” within a class of about 500. Two years later, she transferred to Columbia Law School, where she became the first woman ever to be on two major law reviews — the Harvard Law Review and the Columbia Law Review — and graduated in 1959 at the top of her class.

In 1963, at a time when there were less than 20 female law professors in the United States, Ginsburg landed a teaching job at Rutgers Law School and eventually received tenure. By the early 1970s, she had co-founded the groundbreaking Women’s Rights Law Reporter and transferred to Columbia Law School, where she became the first tenured female professor in 1972. That same year, Ginsburg co-founded the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project. Between 1973 and 1976, in her role as director, Ginsburg argued six gender discrimination cases before an all-male Supreme Court. She won five of them, transforming the constitutional understanding of gender and creating the legal framework for preventing discrimination “on the basis of sex.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg receiving Sanctuary’s 2002 Abely Award for Leading Women and Children to Safety.

After thirteen years of service on the DC Court of Appeals, in 1993, Ginsburg became the second woman ever appointed to the Supreme Court. Over the course of her 27 years on our nation’s highest bench, Ginsburg brought her constitutional analysis to arduously defend women’s and civil rights. In the landmark case United States v. Virginia, Ginsburg authored the Court’s opinion which struck down the  long-standing male-only admission policy of the Virginia Military Institute and any law that “denies to women, simply because they are women, full citizenship stature — equal opportunity to aspire, achieve, participate in and contribute to society.”

Even when in the minority, Justice Ginsburg’s analysis could bring about change. Her masterful dissent in the court’s opinion on Ledbetter v. Goodyear inspired the 2008 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a statute that put an increased burden on employers so that employees were better able to make for pay discrimination.

Most recently, she joined the majority for Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a case that struck down parts of a Texas law that placed restrictions on the delivery of abortion services. In her concurring opinion, Ginsburg argued that it was “beyond rational belief that [such regulations on abortion providers] could genuinely protect the health of women, and certain that the law ‘would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions.”

The Honorable Judith S. Kaye, 1997 Abely Honoree, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at Sanctuary’s 2002 Abely Awards.

Eighteen years ago, Sanctuary had the honor to present Ruth Bader Ginsburg with the Maryellen Abely Award for Leading Women and Children to Safety— an award given annually to a person who has worked for the empowerment of women through the legal system and shares the compassion, energy, and dedication for which we remember Maryellen Abely, one of our first pro bono attorneys. While presenting Justice Ginsburg with the award, we offered the following tribute:

“Through intellectual force, you have changed our world. For the women and children at Sanctuary for Families, relief from the legal disabilities imposed by marriage and gender makes possible their escape from the emotional, physical and economic oppression wrought by their abusers. Without your work, ours would not be possible. For your vision, persistence and effectiveness, we confer upon you our highest honor.”

A giant of American jurisprudence and a relentless champion for the rights of women and minorities, Justice Ginsburg embodied the values that lie at the core of Sanctuary’s mission to end gender violence. It is up to us to create her legacy and to continue her work to ensure the “equal citizenship stature of [all] men and women”, regardless of race, creed, or origin. At Sanctuary for Families, we recommit ourselves to that vision in her honor.

May her memory be a revolution.