I had the opportunity to sit down with Vanessa Volz, the executive director of Sojourner House and learn about current programs and future goals of the organization. I certainly knew about Sojourner House- I worked for the last five years getting restraining orders for domestic violence survivors and many of my clients received services from them- but I had never been to their headquarters or had a deep dive into their programming. I was, as legal services lawyers often are, trying to keep pace with the current client in front of me and hoping my legal piece was a positive component in the complex and challenging lives of our clients.
Sojourner House is the whole and not the piece. Or they are all the pieces, in one organization. They are a holistic nonprofit that provides emergency shelter, transitional housing, and many other resources for domestic violence survivors and their families, sexual assault survivors, and victims of human trafficking. There is a 24/7 crisis hotline, and a drop-in center where you can walk in off the street and talk to an advocate. There are support groups, youth and teen programs, an immigration advocacy program, rapid HIV testing, counseling services, and educational programs.
Sojourner House has been doing this for 45 years. But the needs today are greater than ever. The challenges faced by those in violent situations exponentially increased during the pandemic. Sojourner House had 22% more clients in their 2020 fiscal year than the previous one, and the number of services they offered increased over 150%. 150% is not a typo. The enormity of the current domestic violence problem is overwhelming. Relief is needed and needs to be funded.
What struck me in speaking with Vanessa, however, was her ability to outline what Sojourner House was doing to find long-term solutions and address root causes of domestic violence and physical assault in the face of all these immediate needs. Sojourner House has recognized that housing is one of the barriers that keeps people from rising out of challenging circumstances and they are committed to developing a housing program that can support long term stability, over and above emergency and even transitional services. In addition they are focused on education and prevention efforts to promote safe living situations. The roots of domestic violence are complex, but Sojourner House is not shying away from tackling the harder development issues their clients face.
That is impressive. That is grit. It is one thing to provide relief, it is another to try and stop the conditions that cause people to need relief in the first place. It is hard in the best of times, and seemingly impossible during pandemic times. Sojourner House is undeterred.
We are so happy to feature this organization on Second Serve! We are cheering for you Sojourner House, and doing what we can to bring attention to the good work you do.