An update from Sanctuary for Families regarding COVID-19

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 remain our top priority.
  • In the interest of public health and safety, all staff whose job responsibilities allow are now 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 will continue to refer survivors seeking help to Sanctuary and other NYC providers.
  • All offices and locations are operating with limited staffing and services are moving to phone and video conference whenever possible.

Clinical

  • 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 for those interested and able to, as well as more frequent phone check ins focused on how clients are coping with the COVID-19.
  • 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.
    • Survivors can file a temporary order of protection by email and phone; they will “appear” before a judge via Skype or phone.
    • The definition of “emergency” is narrowing daily; this makes it increasingly difficult for survivors with early signs of escalating violence to attain temporary orders of protection.
    • Read this New York Post article for more information on how these changes impact our clients.
  • Eviction proceedings and all pending eviction orders are being suspended.
  • New York City’s immigration Courts remain open and filing deadlines for detained and non-detained cases remain in place.
    • The Executive Office of Immigration Review’s (EOIR) daily, and often contradictory, announcements via tweet rather than court order, have caused confusion and chaos in the courts.
    • Attorneys are struggling to put filings together remotely and are risking exposure by going to the post office or appearing in court.
    • EOIR’s decision not to suspend all filing deadlines is an extreme challenge for our attorneys and puts the cases of gender violence survivors at risk.
    • USCIS has temporarily suspended routine in-person services.

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