shelter look like amidst the COVID health crisis. The organization’s emergency shelter, which houses nine families at a time, has undergone significant adaptations to ensure the health and safety of staff and families in the last few weeks. Though the new protective measures enforce social distancing practices, they have only brought staff and residents closer together.
Executive Director Sarah Gyorog shared that “the shelter has been the biggest operations challenge for us during the pandemic, and we wanted to make sure we got it right.” And staff members going into the shelter have stepped up, she says. They have worked longer shifts to reduce the number of individuals in the building at one time, and the staff nurse led health workshops, sharing facts about coronavirus and new hygiene self-care practices, for families at the shelter in multiple languages. For their part, families have been meticulous in keeping the space clean and have shown inspiring levels of care for one another. As residents and staff spend more concentrated time together, taking on more responsibilities and learning together, they have forged a deeper level of care for one another.
In addition to assisting residents, the team at the emergency shelter provides round-the-clock support over its hotline, including counseling and safety planning. The fear of what this pandemic brings—not just potential illness but stress, isolation at home, and financial woes—can feel overwhelming for the Transition House family, but the heightened level of care has helped everyone face these uncertainties.
The first domestic violence shelter on the east coast and second in the country, Transition House has been a groundbreaking leader in addressing domestic violence intervention and prevention for over 40 years. The organization works to break the cycle of domestic violence by providing prevention tools and services to clients of all ages and backgrounds, building partnerships that aim to sustain family stability and whole-community approaches to violence prevention, and advocating for social equity and systemic change to end the perpetuation of gender based violence.
Though data on domestic violence incidents are limited, Gyorog believes the available stats don’t come close to capturing the number of individuals who may be struggling right now. Today, Transition House staff are counseling clients for significantly more time than before the pandemic, and are finding the needs much greater and more complex. They are also hearing about reluctance to call police or assumptions that they cannot leave their home during stay-at-home directives.
Just as the virus’s timeline is uncertain, Gyorog and her team cannot predict when they will receive an influx of calls from new survivors, but whenever it does happen they will be prepared. In the last few weeks Transition House’s Community Team has added more housing units to accommodate clients, and worked with Cambridge Police Department to launch a “Quarantined But Not Alone”
campaign. The goal of this campaign is to get word out about available services and offer support in a time of social distancing. Regardless of a state of emergency, or a stay at home order, people experiencing violence at home can reach out and get help. Despite the challenges, seeing the ways the community has come together has provided a glimmer of hope for Transition House staff, which they are certain will help guide the next days, weeks, months of their work.
This is one in a series of stories about grantees of the Boston Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund. These Greater Boston nonprofits are on the front-lines of our community's response to this crisis. While we are all struggling to cope with the hardships of the coronavirus, these organizations, their leaders and their staff are serving the most vulnerable among us. Boston Indicators, the Boston Foundation’s Research Center, is providing valuable data and analysis for these stories. Visit tbf.org for more on the COVID-19 Response Fund.
One family. That is what operations at the