Vanessa Volz is the Executive Director of Sojourner House, which provides services and resources to victims of domestic violence and shelter for women and children, who are trying to escape abusive situations. Volz says that since the coronavirus outbreak, Sojourner House has had distress calls from current and new clients because, “People are literally trapped inside with their abuser.”
For her clients, the coronavirus has also increased psychological distress. “A lot of clients already experience feelings of social-isolation. We try to help them feel like they are not quite all by themselves,” she says.
Overall, the time of COVID-19 has led many victims of abuse to feel more unsafe. “We’ve had to do safety planning [with victims] on a microlevel.” she says. No longer able to leave and go to a relative’s home, they must either find the safest room in the home and avoid rooms like the kitchen or where the gun is kept. Sojourner House has extended hours for their helpline and if anyone needs to make a safety plan or figure options and if they need to go to a shelter, Volz urges people to call their helpline at 401-765-3232, the national number for victims of crime at 1-800-494-8100, or 9-1-1 if it is an emergency.
Volz is also seeking additional funding for rental assistance because some of her clients have reduced hours and she doesn’t want to see those who have a home lose their home. From those staying at the shelter and from those who have homes, “We have received more requests for basic needs such as diapers, infant formula, food, and gift cards for groceries.” Because people often donate difficult-to-use items such as one-size of diaper, Volz says for those in the community looking to help monetary donations are prefered; Sojourner House is also accepting properly-sealed item donations.
Volz hopes that Rhode Islanders will continue to talk about homeless and domestic violence after the coronavirus stops being a threat a year from now. “Domestic violence is a public health epidemic,” she says. “And it’s hard for people to move on without safe, secure housing.”