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.

 

 

 

Stories of Courage and Empowerment

Economic Empowerment Program graduates share stories of struggle and perseverance.

This past June, Sanctuary for Families’ Economic Empower Program held its semi-annual graduation ceremony to celebrate the achievements of forty-three strong and inspiring women, all survivors of domestic violence. With friends, family and Sanctuary staff in attendance, the women accepted their diplomas thereby marking the start of a new stage in both their personal and professional lives.

To honor the occasion the class elected fellow graduates to speak on their behalf. The speeches delivered by Coleen, Rebecah, and Yijie reflect many of the challenges that an estimated 25% of women in the U.S. have/will face in their lifetime. Follow the links below to read their speeches and hear their remarkable stories.

Coleen’s Story

Finding opportunity in every difficulty

“Just a few weeks into the program, I had the craziest thought, ‘What if I were selected to speak at graduation?’ ‘What would I say?’ Right there and then I commenced writing what I wanted to say. Today, here I am delivering [my speech] to you.”

Read on here.

Rebecah’s Story

Another chance at life

“Thinking [back on] a time when I sat in my unit at the shelter thinking to myself I am a single mother, jobless, and who the hell cares  I never thought I would be standing here basking in my own achievements. I didn’t want to constantly be a burden to people who had their own worries, so I shared a little and kept everything else to myself.”

Read on here.

Yijie’s Story

I am not a victim

“Even though I was free from abuse, my freedom was a harsh experience of shelter and struggle – I lost hope and wanted to give up. But I didn’t. I kept going. This program has allowed me to improve myself as well as my professional skills. I was a professional in my native country of China. Now I feel confident and ready to be a professional again in America. Most importantly, I feel human again.”

Read on here.

 

Yijie’s Story: I am not a victim

Yijie, a Sanctuary for Families client, shares how the Economic Empowerment Program helped her reclaim her humanity.

The following speech was delivered by Yijie, a Sanctuary for Families client, at the Spring 2016 Economic Empowerment Program (E.E.P.) graduation. Of the 43 graduates in this year’s spring class, four women were selected by class vote to share their stories with the audience.

This is Yijie’s story.

I am honored to have the chance to speak with you on this special occasion. I would like to start by saying thank you to Sanctuary for Families and the Economic Empowerment Program (E.E.P.) Department for this life changing opportunity. I would also like to give a special thanks to Angelo, Sarah, Maggie, Jessica, Saloni and Eve for their dedication to this program.

Above all, I want to say congratulations to my classmates in the Office Operations Workshop (O.O.W.) program. We have worked so hard and learned so much over these past five months. It has been difficult at times, but all of us here are no strangers to difficulty. All here have been victims of domestic violence.

My participation in this program was not only an opportunity for me to improve myself professionally as an immigrant in a new country, but also a necessary step I needed to take in the process of reclaiming my humanity.

After two years of being a victim of domestic violence, I finally found the courage to leave my abuser. This is difficult for anyone in this situation. It is even more difficult when you are a stranger in a strange land. I felt like I was at the mercy of a system and a city I did not understand. As a single woman with no children, managing the domestic violence system was a constant challenge.

Even though I was free from abuse, my freedom was a harsh experience of shelter and struggle – I lost hope and wanted to give up. But I didn’t. I kept going.

This program has allowed me to improve myself as well as my professional skills. I was a professional in my native country of China. Now I feel confident and ready to be a professional again in America. Most importantly, I feel human again. I am not a victim of domestic violence. I am a survivor of domestic violence. I have taken my life back. 

Again, I thank everyone at Sanctuary for Families for giving us this opportunity. Your work is so important to so many. I wish my classmates the best of luck in their personal and professional lives. Congratulations again to all of you!

 

Learn more about the Economic Empowerment Program’s success here.

A time of transition: supporting children in shelter

Shelter isn’t easy for kids, but it can lead to a world of change.

Tyler was 15, Matt was 13 and Alicia was just 9 when they arrived at the doors of the Rosa Parks Crisis Shelter with their mother Nancy.

“I remember the first day that every family comes in,” says Keyra Carpio, Children’s Activities Specialist at Rosa Parks. “When I came down to meet with Nancy’s family, the three kids were tucked into their hoodies, silently checking their phones – doing everything to block themselves out from the situation.”

Nancy and her kids left an abusive father and a lifetime of instability, and were ready to start over free from violence. But the challenges they faced were extreme – one day after arriving at the shelter, Nancy was diagnosed with cancer.

Finding safety in shelter

Rosa Parks is one of Sanctuary’s five crisis shelters, the first place families go when escaping domestic violence. Home to five families at any given time, the shelter is a tidy, bright building with a backyard, a dedicated children’s room, and separate full apartments for each family.

Residents and staff treat the shelter like a true home and care for each other like family. Rosa Parks definitely challenges stereotypical expectations of shelter in New York City.

But entering shelter, no matter how welcoming or warm, is never easy, and holds extra challenges for children and teens.

“The first few weeks are always the most difficult for children and teens in shelter, but especially for Nancy’s family,” says Keyra. “Tyler, Matt and Alicia felt insecure and uncertain from being in such an unfamiliar place, and on top of that, now their mother had to navigate advanced-stage cancer.”

Transforming children, and moms

Keyra and the Rosa Parks staff help kids and families transform every day by providing extensive children’s and youth services on-site, for all young residents. Along with a dedicated Children’s Room for play, art and homework, Keyra plans an extensive art curriculum for every kid by age group.

Art, says Keyra, helps kids open up. “Just painting a self-portrait helps kids speak and share about themselves. Engaging with pictures and art let kids explore who they are, which is critical.”

Staff advocate for the kids to get them enrolled in school, and sort out any school issues that might conflict with shelter circumstances. Tutors come to Rosa Parks to help kids out with their studies.

Fields trips to museums and theater workshops take place at least once a month, and the staff takes advantage of every opportunity to throw a celebration, from birthdays to graduations to holidays.

Trips and parties aren’t just for kids – moms take part too. After moms and kids have experienced trauma from abuse, these group activities can help them come back together and rebuild their relationships.

A community pulls together

For Nancy and her kids, the Rosa Parks community played a crucial role in their journey from fear and abuse to safety and security.

“When Nancy was diagnosed, it was a drastic change for the family, even after all they’d been through,” says Keyra. “Suddenly, the kids had to take real responsibility, because their mom could not handle it all on her own.”

Nancy had to travel from Brooklyn to the Bronx daily for chemotherapy and radiation, and there were days, in the throes of her illness, where she did not think she could get out of bed.

The Rose Parks staff helped the family develop a plan for getting chores done, getting the kids to school and Nancy to her appointments. The family’s counselors and shelter staff held regular check-ins, planning for how to keep everyone going through the most challenging of times.

Slowly, the family pulled through.

Rebuilding a family through art

As Nancy progressed in her treatment and grew stronger, she began to spend time in the Children’s Room.

Inspired by the art projects hanging on the walls, Nancy wanted to do something for herself.

“Nancy wanted to feel productive and creative again,” says Keyra. “She came up with an idea to create an ‘art journal,’ documenting the challenges and joys of her time battling cancer.”

Soon, the entire family was taking part in this temporary relief from their day to day struggles. Over six weeks, they created six paintings, each one meaningful in a different way. Together, they represent the family’s long journey to safety and happiness.

A happy beginning

Six months after arriving in shelter, Nancy and the kids moved on to a transitional shelter. Recently they found permanent housing through New York City’s new LINC program.

Nancy is cancer-free, and her children have found their confidence again.

They plan to decorate their new home with their art.

This post is one of a series about children that we are sharing during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Visit our blog for more, and find out how you can speak out during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.