Thank you for inviting me to share a little about Helping Hands Against Violence (HHAV) — what we do, how we do it, and how your support helps survivors to be safe.
As most of you know, HHAV is a non-profit which supports survivors of domestic violence, sexual support and stalking through shelter, advocacy, education and outreach.
We house eight families — in up to 27 beds, six families in our 30-day emergency shelter and two families in year-long transitional housing.
Most survivors arrive with their kids, a bag of essentials (or not) and a lifetime of trauma.
It’s the community’s compassion and support that allows survivors to live safely and begin their transformation.
Every survivor comes with her own story, her own set of hurdles and needs. Each one of them works with our advocates to do whatever it takes to move forward. And forward progress looks different for everyone.
Change is a daunting task — especially when sometimes it takes a month just to learn that you can fall asleep without fear.
Fortunately, we are able to grant extensions, which means the average stay at our 30-day shelter is actually four to six months.
And it’s because of you that survivors are encouraged, supported and empowered to ensure that change really happens.
Last year, a survivor arrived at Helping Hands numbed by abuse, alcohol and the loss of custody of her child. Six months later, she graduated from our shelter to our transitional housing unit — clean and sober and reunited with her child. Huge progress.
By the end of her transitional year, she was slated to move into low-income housing. She was elated when she heard she was next on the list. But at the last minute, she was denied housing because some past issues with abuse had created a black mark on her rental history.
Fortunately, a good advocate doesn’t take no for an answer and knew that the apartment complex had an appeal process.
The advocate encouraged her to appeal. She did. And she succeeded! She and her son will be moving into their own place.
The community’s kind support allows survivors to never give up, to open all the doors of possibilities — even when sometimes it seems impossible.
Survivors might not be able to change the trauma of their past but because of this generous community, they are able to transform the direction of their future.
Stephanie Irving is executive director of Helping Hands Against Violence. This is adapted from an address she recently gave to the congregation of Riverside Community Church.

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