An Update on our Services

Learn more about the future of our services in the year ahead.

As New York continues to recover from the pandemic, Sanctuary is preparing for a new era of hybrid service provision — one that will better meet the needs of survivors living across New York’s five boroughs.

When the City went into lockdown in March 2020, we shifted our legal and clinical services and career readiness training to virtual platforms. Our social workers conducted counseling sessions through a telehealth platform, our Economic Empowerment Program shifted training to Zoom, and when the courts resumed hearings our attorneys represented survivors through Skype and Zoom. Of course not all services could be offered virtually. Sanctuary staff kept our five shelters open throughout the pandemic, supporting survivors and ensuring a clean environment for our residents.

Learn more about how we adapted our services here >

The changes we made across our programs revealed new opportunities for our work with adult and child survivors of gender violence. Learn what’s happening in the months ahead and how we plan to integrate our current virtual services with our traditional in-person support.

Office Re-Openings

Manhattan Office – Confidential Location

Our Manhattan Office is open for scheduled appointments Monday through Friday, 9 am – 5 pm, on a case by case basis. Availability for in-person meetings will increase after Labor Day (Monday, September 6th). Please call 212.349.6009 or your Sanctuary point person to schedule an appointment.

Family Justice Centers

While Sanctuary’s shelters and Manhattan Office have remained open throughout the pandemic, New York City’s Family Justice Centers (FJCs) have largely operated virtually. The FJCs have traditionally provided valuable and accessible comprehensive services, particularly to survivors who prefer to drop in rather than make an appointment in advance. The Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence opened the Manhattan FJC last September for limited appointments two days a week. The other FJCs are re-opening on a limited basis as follows:

  • Manhattan FJC – The MFJC ramped up its on-site staffing and appointment capacity in early June. The MFJC is open on Monday and Friday during phase 2 of the reopening plan.
  • Staten Island FJC – The SIFJC opened its doors on Tuesday, June 8th for client appointments only. The SIFJC is open on Tuesday and Thursday during phase 2 of the FJC reopening plan.
  • Queens FJC – The Queens FJC opened its doors on Tuesday, July 6th for appointments only. The QFJC is open on Tuesday and Thursdays during phase 2 of the FJC reopening plan. 
  • Brooklyn FJC- The Brooklyn FJC will open their doors on Wednesday, August 4th for appointments only. The BKFJC will be open on Wednesday and Thursdays during phase 2 of the FJC reopening plan.
  • Bronx FJC – The Bronx FJC will open its doors in early August for appointments only on Tuesday and Thursday. The opening date is still to be determined. 

Contact an FJC office here >

EMPOWER Center

The EMPOWER Center remains open for virtual services and scheduled appointments only. To make an appointment, please call 212.238.4906.

Future of our services

Economic Empowerment

Before to the pandemic, Economic Empowerment Program (EEP) participants were expected to attend in-person classes at our confidential Manhattan office daily. Our computer labs, onsite childcare and prepaid MetroCards made this program accessible but for many, the commute added an extra layer of complexity to participants’ busy lives. The program was also especially challenging for those who did not have access to a computer or WiFi at home but wanted extra time to practice the skills they were building. The lock-down led Sanctuary to shift EEP online and provide participants with the necessary technology. Now, with generous support from Mobile Citizen for low-cost internet and long-term funding for laptops in the works, we plan to continue offering EEP as a hybrid of Zoom and in-person classes starting this fall. By providing program participants, and by extension their families, with technology to close the digital divide, greater flexibility, and the community that has always set EEP apart, we believe we can better support survivors on their professional journey.

If you would like to learn more about our Fall 2021 Economic Empowerment Program, please email Info@sffny.org

Legal Representation

New York State courts have reopened with most cases continuing to be heard virtually through Microsoft Teams. The shift to virtual court proceedings has revealed several benefits. Survivors save the time and money they would typically spend on childcare, time off from work, and/or the cost of the commute with the added benefit of not having to see or be near their abusive partner in court. While the future of court proceedings has yet to be determined, we expect virtual hearings to become a permanent option.

Family Court: Already-existing cases are continuing in the borough Family Courts where they started however newly filed cases that require immediate judicial attention can now be filed in a City-wide virtual court.

Immigration Court: Immigration Courts remain open. USCIS interviews and appointments have resumed. Non-detained removal defense cases resumed July 6, 2021.

Order of Protection (Family and Criminal): All Temporary Orders of Protection are continued until the next time the case is back in court.

Pro Bono Support: In April 2021, we launched a web-portal for pro bono attorneys to access sample documents, educational guides and a variety of other materials to help them with pro bono cases. Before the portal, these materials were typically shared on an individual, case-by-case basis by the supervising Sanctuary attorney. The launch of the portal makes it easier for our partners to learn the intricacies of gender violence cases and trauma-informed representation while freeing up time for our attorneys to provide oversight. Active pro bono attorneys can request access here.

Counseling

Sanctuary counselors will continue to provide counseling sessions to adults, children, and families through a HIPAA compliant telehealth platform with expanded availability for in-person counseling sessions beginning September 6th. As with many of our other services, counselors have found the shift to virtual services enables clients to attend sessions with more regularity because they do not have to worry about the commute or childcare. Virtual therapy, however, comes with several significant challenges including access to adequate technology and privacy, and the difficulty of building trust without the intimacy of in-person interaction. Read the reflections of our Children and Family counselors on virtual counseling here.

Housing and Shelter

Governor Cuomo has extended the moratorium on COVID-related residential and commercial evictions and foreclosure proceedings for those filing a hardship declaration until August 31, 2021. While Sanctuary’s shelters have remained open throughout the pandemic, our staff have continued working with survivors to secure permanent housing and relief through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

Volunteer and In-Kind

Sanctuary is continuing to limit the number of individuals entering our confidential Manhattan Office. Please check back for updates and volunteer opportunities in August. If you would like to support survivors with material or in-kind donations, please browse our Amazon Wish List. The items listed are urgently needed by families visiting our offices and staying in our shelters.

 

 

 

In “Desirae’s” words: A reason to keep going

“Desirae” shares why participating in our Economic Empowerment Program was the silver lining of 2020 for her.

The following speech was delivered by “Desirae,” a survivor and graduate of Sanctuary’s Economic Empowerment Program (EEP), during the January 2021 graduation. Of the 43 graduates, three were selected by class vote to share their thoughts and experiences with the audience.

Read “Desirae’s” speech: 

Good evening, everyone. As we gather this evening to celebrate our graduation, I want to thank the man who started the Economic Empowerment Program from scratch, Angelo J. Rivera. His laying the foundation for this program was amazing, but Angelo would not stop there. He then gathered magnificent people to run it. The EEP team serves the purpose of the program so gracefully – with competence and professionalism, this team has managed to tailor a curriculum that fits the needs of all of us despite the diversity of our members. I don’t know how you all did that, but it is mind-blowing, and it is beautiful that we all received this opportunity. We have benefited so much that we looked forward to coming back again and again to training, day in and day out. Additionally, the training and the Microsoft Office Specialist certifications I now hold are complete game-changers for my job search. That added value to my resume gave me the confidence to aspire for companies I would have only dreamed of working for in the past.

Furthermore, this team showed us that this is not just a “job” for them. They proved on many occasions that there is passion in their approach to this work. This makes a big difference. Many people and organizations want to help, but for one reason or the other, they fail to find the right people to carry their mission forward. Thank you to the EEP team for giving me so much to be thankful for, without taking anything away from me. Thank you for caring.

Someone said that if 2020 was a TV show, it should have been canceled. I ask that we don’t cancel 2020. I understand that the pandemic sucks, the restrictions suck. Many people lost their loved ones to COVID-19, and life, as we are used to, is no longer available. We all are sorrowful for that. But beyond all the despair, I look at the bright side. While the world was asked to exercise social distance, I met and connected with more people than ever before. I was able to go to school and boost my qualifications. All that happened in the comfort of our own homes. I want to thank Sanctuary and all of its partners that made this possible.

To my fellow EEP members, I want to say congratulations. Look at where we are – look at what we have done! Sharing this wonderful journey with you has been an honor and a great privilege for me. Thank you for sharing your stories and thank you for making our community a safe space for everyone. This has meant so much. As we move forward to the next step, let’s not forget that while we don’t know when and what type of recovery the country’s economy will have, one thing that is sure is that we are now commodities for when that recovery comes. We should celebrate our achievements. We had 1,000 reasons to give up, and Sanctuary gave us one reason to keep going. What we acquired in this program is ours – ain’t nobody gonna take it away from us. I love you, and God bless!

All names have been changed to protect the privacy of our clients.

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.

Virtual Courtroom Advocates Project: Helping Survivors Get Orders of Protection During COVID-19

At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary is honoring a group of dedicated volunteer attorneys, summer associates, and paralegals who provided virtual pro se assistance to survivors of domestic violence seeking orders of protection during COVID-19.

Tushna is Of Counsel at Morrison & Foerster LLP and a member of Sanctuary’s Pro Bono Council.

One of the unfortunate and dangerous effects of the Coronavirus pandemic has been that the frequency and intensity of domestic violence has escalated during this challenging time. With Family Courts physically closed and operating at reduced capacity as a result of the Covid-19 health crisis, those experiencing domestic violence were not able to receive in-person pro se assistance in preparing and filing family offense petitions against their abuser in order to obtain orders of protection for themselves and their children.

To address this serious gap in services, Sanctuary for Families worked quickly to create a new pro bono project called the Virtual Courtroom Advocates Project (or VCAP), which provided virtual pro se assistance to survivors of domestic violence seeking orders of protection from abuse and violence.  A group of six firms promptly agreed to staff the VCAP program and a group of dedicated volunteer attorneys, summer associates and paralegals from Cahill, Gordon & Reindel LLP, Davis, Polk & Wardwell LLP, Paul Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, Simpson Thacher & Barlett LLP, Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, and Schulte, Roth &  Zabel LLP made a huge commitment to help these brave survivors. Volunteers from each of these firms immediately began staffing the VCAP program five days a week starting in April 2020. By the time VCAP ended on September 1, 2020, VCAP volunteers had drafted nearly 200 family offense petitions on behalf of victims of domestic violence seeking orders of protection.  Nearly 180 of those petitions were filed with the court, with almost all of the petitioners being granted an order of protection and other requested relief.

Each of the volunteers focused their time, energy, and efforts to help their clients prepare and file their petitions and to serve the Temporary Order of Protection on the respondent. VCAP attorneys were tenacious and skilled in their quest to help the clients obtain full stay away Temporary Orders of Protection. In addition, they were able to achieve hard to obtain additional relief to meet the needs of survivors of domestic violence, such as stay away orders for petitioner’s children and pets, child support orders, and orders preventing the electronic dissemination of intimate images and videos of the petitioner.

Each pro bono attorney was compassionate and patient in assisting these courageous survivors to get protection from their abusers and offered empathetic and trauma-informed support, empowering petitioners to find their own path to safety and justice. For example, one pro bono attorney worked for over a week with a petitioner who was afraid to file her family offense petition, patiently supporting the client and empowering the client to make her own decision regarding whether to file the petition. Ultimately, the client decided to move forward with filing the petition and obtained the protection she needed.

As a long-standing member of Sanctuary’s Pro Bono Council and Sanctuary supporter, I am deeply grateful to each of the caring pro bono attorneys, summer associates, and paralegals for their fierce advocacy combined with kindness and deep empathy, and the law firms that supported and facilitated their work. I am also thankful to the Sanctuary for Families staff attorneys who were instrumental in swiftly setting up this innovative program that met the urgent needs of the moment.  And, as always, I am also grateful for, and constantly inspired by, the courage and strength of the clients who stepped forward to protect themselves and their families from violence and abuse in the midst of a global health crisis.

In the words of VCAP volunteer attorney Amy Barton of Paul Weiss,

“Although my clients repeatedly expressed their appreciation to me for my assistance, in the end, they were the ones who deserved my thanks for inspiring me with their strength to find help when needed and allowing me the opportunity to try to make someone’s life a little safer in a world that seemed to be turning upside down for all of us.”

Join us at our Above & Beyond virtual celebration on October 29, 2020, as we honor the VCAP volunteers’ outstanding pro bono work. 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.