Rose Haven Community,
Near the end of February, the Rose Haven staff determined that over the next month we were going to prioritize getting organized at the shelter – cleaning out old files, organizing office spaces, majorly revamping our in-kind donations area, etc. We deemed it “March Madness”. Little did we know that “March Madness” would take on an entirely different meaning. In true Rose Haven fashion our staff, volunteers and supporters shifted gears and rose to this new and unforeseen challenge.
During March, Rose Haven provided life-saving support to 503 women and children, who collectively visited 1,478 times. We distributed hundreds of sleeping bags, tarps and tents. We provided comprehensive hygiene kits with hand sanitizer and other essentials. We kept our bathrooms open, cleaned and constantly sanitized. We provided mail services and charged cell phones. We served thousands of hot, nutritious meals that provided nourishment to body and soul. We did this with a handful of volunteers and a tiny, yet determined, staff.
As we enter April, we anticipate continuing to pivot as needed. It is also Sexual Assault Awareness Month. While acknowledgement of this will inevitably be buried amongst all the COVID-19 media, let us recognize “Shelter in Place” can be very dangerous for those living in abusive households. Suicide hotlines are fielding 51% more calls, and compared to the same time period from last year, domestic violence arrests are up 27%. Violence is escalating, and women and families are more trapped than ever. Just yesterday I answered the door after hours to someone fleeing abuse. After spending an hour exhausting all the domestic violence resource options available (to no avail), I was able to find one open mat at a co-ed shelter way across town. I felt lucky to find her respite for the night…but that is the extent of how long it would last. The next day she will have no options again. The work continues.
The Rose Haven community is always there for people in their greatest time of need. Now is no exception. It is beyond crushing to have no viable indoor options for people experiencing extreme trauma in this COVID-19 moment. And to provide much needed advocacy and comfort from a distance of 6 feet feels so unnatural, so unlike Rose Haven. But safety is essential, so from 6 feet we remind our guests of their value, at a time when they are greatly questioning this. While we are unable to physically wrap our arms around people, we are embracing them with words of encouragement and hope from the Rose Haven community. We remind them they are loved by us and all of you. Your compassion for them is confirmed with every box of supplies we receive, every donation we get online, every phone call asking what more you can do. We know you feel at a distance from us, yet we feel your embrace.
Between the devastatingly hard conversations, we are finding moments of laughter, community and gratitude. Thank you for allowing us to continue this work. Rose Haven does not exist without you.
Katie O’Brien, Executive Director