To the editor:
The recent article regarding the review of HAWC’s domestic violence shelter policies (“HAWC told to improve shelter, Dec. 31”) overlooks several critical issues.
There was a six-week, not six-month, investigation. In June, DCF met with HAWC to summarize their findings and to report that the allegations of abuse were unfounded. There were policy improvements suggested that HAWC agreed to.
The recession and dangerous cuts to social services make it harder than ever for some to leave an abusive situation. HAWC and similar shelters provide essential support. As our neighbors in crisis find their feet, they find overbooked transitional housing, no job prospects and, ultimately, nothing but cold streets for their next home. A three-month stay at an emergency shelter turns into 12-18 months.
The Department of Children and Families did not anticipate this scenario when they wrote their policies decades ago, so today there is no clear legal process to move guests on from a crisis shelter. Within a reasonable period, after the immediate threat is gone, they move on to some other form of housing, leaving room for the next family in crisis. If a shelter guest opts not to take alternative placements offered, domestic violence shelters, whose mission is to serve those in crisis, are left in an untenable position. They must either take the draconian step of moving a person from their shelter or denying a place to callers in desperate need of safe harbor. In either case, the shelter is forced into an adverse relationship with the very individuals it is trying to help.
HAWC is in agreement with DCF on the need for fair termination policies for all emergency shelters. That DCF is delaying issuing guidelines at such a slow pace, however, is creating dangerous situations every day and keeping essential beds unavailable.
For the Board of Directors
Working for Change