We are thrilled to share that earlier this fall, Sanctuary was awarded over $4.5 million in new funding, more than any other agency in New York, from the State Office of Victims Services (OVS). The grant, which will be disbursed over five years, is part of a larger pool of $17 million which OVS is distributing to 61 leading victim assistance programs to support the hiring of attorneys who will assist crime victims with civil legal matters.
With this new funding, Sanctuary will be able to hire 9 staff members to support high-need areas of our legal services.
Sanctuary’s Immigration Intervention Project serves the highest volume of clients of any project within our Legal Center. Since President Trump came into office, the challenges our immigration attorneys have faced on behalf of our clients have been escalating on a nearly daily basis. Over the last two years, our staff have experienced a drastic increase in the amount of time and resources needed in order to effectively represent each client. These changes have resulted in overwhelming case loads and an increasingly long waitlist.
With the OVS funding, Sanctuary will be able to hire two staff attorneys and two project assistants to join our Immigration Intervention Project.
Campus Gender Violence
Sanctuary initially addressed the interlinked problem of sexual assault and gender violence on college campuses by launching the Campus Advocates Project in 2014 in partnership with Columbia University. The project brought resources and advocacy for victims of sexual assault. Recognizing the need to expand these services to higher education institutions across New York City, Sanctuary launched the Campus Gender Violence Project in 2017. With just two attorneys working on this project, however, and a growing need for legal consultation and representation on behalf of survivors of campus sexual or intimate partner violence, we are excited to expand this program.
With the OVS funding, Sanctuary will be able to hire a new staff attorney to join our Campus Gender Violence Project.
Sanctuary’s Legal Helpline receives approximately 700 calls per year by survivors of gender-based violence seeking legal assistance – some are calling to learn about their legal rights and possible recourses while others are facing looming courts dates and are in the midst of litigation without adequate representation. Currently, two staff attorneys with caseloads of their own, with the support of a project assistant with additional outreach responsibilities, manage this helpline. Given the high demand for legal information, advocacy, and representation, Sanctuary urgently needed to increase staffing.
With the OVS funding, Sanctuary will be able to hire a new Legal Helpline/Family Law staff attorney and a Legal Helpline project assistant to better meet both the requests survivors present and to identify the additional array of needs through thorough assessment.
Sanctuary’s Matrimonial/Economic Justice Project (EJP) advocates on behalf of economically-disadvantaged domestic violence and trafficking victims in a wide-range of cases. EJP’s goal is to ensure that our clients and their children survive financially in the short-term and receive economic and housing stability in the long term, while severing their legal ties to their abusers. For survivors of gender violence, many of whom struggle financially, this kind of multifaceted legal representation is critical. Over this last year, however, staffing changes have revealed a need for additional support.
With the OVS funding, Sanctuary will be able to hire a new staff attorney to focus on uncontested divorces and a project assistant to join our Matrimonial/Economic Justice Project.
Considering the 19% rise in the number of domestic violence police reports the NYPD saw between 2016 and 2017, the increasing reluctance of undocumented gender violence victims to report abuse for fear of deportation, and rapidly changing policies around sexual assault on college campuses, this OVS grant could not come at a better time.
We thank Governor Cuomo and the Office of Victims Services for their support and commitment to ending gender-based violence in New York, and look forward to seeing the impact this funding will have in extending more services to victims in need.