A Pivotal Moment
This was a year like no other for Henderson House. The challenges we are confronting alongside our clients and the growth we are pursuing to fulfill our mission are both beyond what we have ever faced before. Let me explain…
Challenge No. 1 — This year we received some alarming updates from community stakeholders at many levels about the interpersonal violence happening at our high schools. Henderson House had – previous to the pandemic – a prevention education and support program offered at our local high schools. But, since 2019, this program had been on hold. After receiving requests from County mental health workers, law enforcement, and school administrators – we heard the call that investment in prevention work needed to be reinstated. Without knowing where the dollars would come from to bring additional advocate services on-site, we committed to reinstating our “One Circle” groups at McMinnville, Newberg, and Yamhill Carlton High Schools. Subsequently we applied for and were awarded a capacity-building grant over the next five years, to support the growth of this program, from the Oregon Dept. of Justice’s Sexual Assault Task Force. We are promoting our Primary Advocate Sydney Philips to the position of Prevention & Outreach Program Manager to oversee this program expansion. Her title includes “Outreach” because her role will be more remote as she dedicates her time in cities around Yamhill County, with the intention of removing the barriers of travel and time for survivors to access services outside of McMinnville.
Challenge No. 2 — In the past year we saw a 76% increase in the number of clients served. We don’t call this success. Success would be no clients requiring services – a community free of domestic and sexual violence. What this number probably indicates is that more people are aware of the services available to them which we see as an outcome of our investment in outreach and development. Though Henderson House has faithfully served Yamhill County for over 42 years, this was the first year that we had a staff role dedicated to outreach and development. This investment has resulted in strengthened community partnerships, expanded communication efforts, and, ultimately, many more clients served. We are actively recruiting to hire an additional Bilingual Advocate to better meet the needs of our clients.
Challenge No. 3 — The greatest challenge faced by our clients this year is the challenge of securing permanent housing that is affordable. When a client experiencing domestic violence needs to flee their home and access our emergency shelter, our emergency shelter is just an interim solution. It is a safe, confidential place where survivors can find refuge for a limited amount of time. Our emergency shelter is always full, but rather than allowing clients to stay indefinitely, we have to limit their stay because there are too many others that urgently need the resource. The original vision of the emergency shelter was to have a client stay there until they secured permanent affordable housing for their family. At one time, this was possible to do within 30 days. Now, however, the waitlist for affordable housing is up to 5 years. Even with fast-track vouchers through our local housing authority (of which we have a very limited number available to our clients), clients only have 8 months to find an affordable housing unit, which means the vouchers are often forfeited due to lack of supply and the process begins all over again. This is frustrating for anyone engaging with these systems, but for Henderson House clients, affordable housing can be the difference between a safe place to begin healing, or facing the choice between returning to their abuser or becoming homeless. The challenge of scarce affordable housing is going to get worse before it gets better. We have to find a solution to this crisis if we hope to offer any real path forward for the clients that seek our support. We are following the example of neighboring counties and are pursuing a transitional shelter solution for DV/SA survivors in Yamhill County. We need a site with at least a 20,000 sq. ft. footprint to accommodate 20 to 30, 1-2 bedroom apartment units where we can securely house survivors and their families for up to 2 years with advocate support to help them re-establish their lives free of violence, become self-sufficient, and find affordable housing. We are seeking our community’s support to find this location, to advocate for the needs of our clients, and to make this vision a reality.
Thank you for taking the time to read about the challenges Henderson House and our clients are facing. Please partner with us in any way that you can, whether through a monetary gift, an in-kind donation from our “Holiday Wish List,” volunteering with Henderson House, or simply spreading the word about our need for transitional shelter. Thank you for your support!
Cheers to a remarkable 2023,
Henderson House Development Director