SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

January 25, 2013

HAWC shelter remains closed

Salem: Reason it cannot reopen is in dispute

The North Shore’s only shelter for victims of domestic violence has been closed for more than two months, with no date set to reopen and no clear explanation of why the shelter cannot open.

The director of Salem-based HAWC (Healing Abuse Working for Change) laid blame for the closure on a lack of clarity over the legal process for removing residents and whether the facility is considered a housing program or a clinical program.

“My understanding is the reason is related to the need for clear, statewide termination and appeal policies for shelter guests,” Candace Waldron wrote in an email.

But a spokeswoman for the Department of Children and Families, which oversees funding for the shelter, said the facility remains closed in order to complete retraining of staff, as well as “trauma debriefing” for employees who say they were affected by allegations of abuse made by several former shelter guests. A state investigation cleared the shelter of abuse allegations but ordered new training for the staff.

“The shelter’s reopening has been delayed in order to provide trauma debriefing for all of the staff that were involved with the recent allegations brought against HAWC,” said the spokeswoman, Cayenne Isaksen.

“Additionally, they are being trained to create a structure within the organization to ensure proper supervision is provided and that each staff member has the tools they need to continue to promote trauma-informed services, which will benefit future program participants, as well,” Isaksen said.

Both women said yesterday, following a series of emails and calls from a Salem News reporter over two days, that they are now discussing a possible reopening of the shelter “soon.”

The HAWC shelter came under scrutiny last April after attorneys from Neighborhood Legal Services representing six shelter residents sent a letter to the Department of Children and Families alleging a “climate of abuse” and retaliation against residents. The residents, through their attorneys, charged that staff at the shelter were evicting women with children with two hours’ notice, that women were expected to “beg” for basic needs such as cots, and that women who complained or sought legal assistance suffered retaliation.

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