Women’s shelters working by phone but still open

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Capital News Service

LANSING — Women’s shelters are experiencing a shortage in many essential supplies, such as food, diapers and basic cleaning supplies.

Many nonprofit shelters, like LACASA in Howell and the Women’s Resource Center in Traverse City, have welcomed donations of such items.

The Women’s Resource Center has cut all face-to-face interactions with clients and donors. It has also used a bench outside of its front door to receive donations and provide clients with essentials they need, like food and masks. 

The center is counseling people by phone and keeping its shelters open for residents who live there.

“We ask for things like hand sanitizer and sanitary wipes,” said Juliette Schultz, the center’s executive director. “It’s easier for people to give a single bottle of hand sanitizer than a box of masks or big items.”

Much like Lysol wipes and toilet paper, diapers are scarce.
“We are extremely short on diapers,” Schultz said. “Diapers are a commodity right now that are hard to come by.”

After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released official DIY face mask patterns, many community members have sewn and donated handmade masks to shelters, according to Schultz.

Other women’s shelters prefer monetary donations.

“On our website or any of our social media, we do have a campaign going on, seeking donations,” said Bobette Schrandt, the president of LACASA. 

“Because of the safety issues relating to the virus, we have not been taking in-kind [contributions] because we don’t know where it’s coming from. We’ve been asking for more cash donations so we can go and purchase more supplies.”

Shelters have closed most in-person counseling sessions and reduced their number of volunteers to lower the spread of the virus.

“We have limited our volunteers — we don’t want to risk other people,” Schultz said. “We primarily need the support from the community.”

Through the use of telehealth technology, many shelters remain open and available for victims. The Women’s Resource Center’s emergency shelter remains open over the phone.

Schrandt said, “We service nearly 4,000 families a year, so we have families that are at risk for child abuse and neglect, healthy families, families that come in for domestic abuse and child and sexual assault counseling. 

“We’re doing that remotely right now. We are trying to assist all the families, not just those in our shelters,” she said.

There shouldn’t be any health concerns about living at the shelter during the COVID-19 outbreak, according to Schrandt.

“We haven’t had an incident in our shelter and we clean rigorously,” she said. “We have very clear procedures in place, so we’re cleaning every couple of hours and following all of the necessary steps to keep everyone safe.”

To help fund their services, many shelters are applying for grants. For example, United Way based in Virginia and the Spark Foundation based in Jackson are offering grants to women’s shelters.

With the Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order in place, there are worries about an increase in domestic violence and child abuse in homes. 
According to a study by NBC News, 18 out of 22 law enforcement agencies polled across the United States said they saw a rise in domestic violence calls during the quarantine period in March.
“One of the concerns that we have with the Stay Home, Stay Safe order is that people might be concerned about going to a shelter due to it being a communal living space,” Schrandt said.
“Domestic abuse victims tend to be rule-followers, for that could mean life or death to them in that situation. If the rule is that you’re not supposed to leave your home, then they’ll stay at home,” she said.
“We want everyone to know that sheltering is something that is okay. They can come, and we want them to come to the shelter,” Schrandt said.

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