Safe Haven sees more in shelter in 2017

Facility at or above capacity more than half the year
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A proposed addition to Safe Haven’s domestic violence shelter in Shawano could be coming in the nick of time for the agency.

Safe Haven released its 2017 statistics this week, which indicated how crowded the shelter was. There are currently five bedrooms in the existing shelter, and they were at capacity (one family per shelter) or above capacity 189 days out of the year, with a couple of times when 10 families were in the shelter at a given time, 52 percent of the year.

The shelter was never empty in 2017, according to the statistics, and at least two families were in the shelter 98 percent of the time. Safe Haven provided shelter for 58 women, 52 children and two men, with the average length of stay being 31 days.

The last three months of 2017 were especially crowded, according to executive director Stacey Cicero. The shelter was at or over capacity 99 percent of that period, she said, with only one day where there was some elbow room.

“What was most notable was our shelter occupancy was up by 23 percent over 2016,” Cicero said. “We were out of paper towels and all of those things. We were extremely busy.

Safe Haven only saw its shelter at or above capacity 29 percent of the time in 2016. That year, 55 women and 67 children stayed in the shelter, and the average length of stay was 27.3 days.

Cicero is unsure what has caused the jump in the number of people needing help, aside from more awareness of services locally and through the national #MeToo movement. She also believes economic woes could be a factor.

“I’m asked that question a lot, and directors around the state are asked that a lot,” Cicero said. “I’m not sure there’s any one true answer. The economy plays a role. We’re seeing a lot more concerns with mental issues and alcohol and drug abuse issues. There are financial issues that might keep them from getting into a place on their own.”

Cicero believes more community outreach will bring more people to them in need of services. Besides the 112 people in the shelter, there were close to 900 other people receiving services in the region.

Safe Haven volunteers and staff also go out into the community to speak to schools and community groups about domestic violence and the services available locally. The agency gave 72 school presentations in 2017, up from 34 in 2016. Both years, the agency gave 12 community presentations a year.

“Over the years, domestic violence and sexual assault is seen as a family issue, and nobody wants to talk about it,” Cicero said. “Society doesn’t necessarily want to deal with it, and movements like #MeToo and other movements create awareness and give victims a voice and a way to come from.”

Safe Haven started a fundraising campaign to expand the shelter last year, and it has obtained 57 percent of the $425,000 needed to add three more bedrooms and additional space for staff and support group activities.

“Our goal was to be at 50 percent by the time we broke ground, so we’re ahead of schedule,” Cicero said. “We’re only $125 short of our $50,000 matching grant (from the Klement Family Foundation).”

Cicero hopes to break ground on the expansion in April or May. She and others are still writing grants and going out into the community for donations.

Safe Haven averages six to seven families at a given time, so there should be less overcrowding once the expansion is completed, according to Cicero.

New in 2017 was a lethality assessment program, where Safe Haven was able to team up with law enforcement and determine how many domestic violence situations have the risk of turning deadly. Shawano County was one of nine counties to receive a state grant, where officials survey victims to see if any deadly threats or attempts to use a weapon have taken place.

Safe Haven and police conducted 172 lethality assessments, and of those 91 victims screened as a high danger/potential homicide risk. The 60 percent high risk was an issue of concern to Cicero.

“Sometimes the victim will speak to us; sometimes they won’t. We always do a follow up,” Cicero said. “Sixty percent is an extraordinary number. With 172 incidents, that’s almost one call every other day.”

BY THE NUMBERS

Statistic 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013

Days at or over capacity 189 104 250 N/A N/A

Victim services 501 514 555 510 551

Victim safety plans 1,160 724 740 798 833

Cases referred to district attorney 197 171 201 193 154

Crisis calls 3,150 2,062 2,185 2,155 2,256