A mom, scared for her life and the lives of her seven children, fled a violent situation and found herself living on the streets. Due to restrictions placed on shelters during COVID-19, the family was unable to move into a shelter given the uncertainty of whether or not they had been exposed to the virus. Instead of staying somewhere safe and warm, she and her seven children lived out of a car… until Women’s Fund of Central Indiana provided Alternatives with emergency grant funding to help the organization fast-track a partnership with a local hotel.

Alternatives is a nonprofit working to end domestic violence in Central Indiana. They had been working on a partnership with a local hotel to take in families when the shelter was full. Although the details had not been solidified – and some details still remain – the two entities collaborated to quickly take in the family. Funds from the Women’s Fund emergency grant were used to pay for the safe place, food, and basic needs.

“This miracle would not have been possible without the support of Women’s Fund,” said Johna Lee, CEO, Alternatives. “I can’t explain how overwhelmed with emotion our case manager was when she learned we received immediate funding that would allow us to remove this family from a dangerous situation and into a hotel. It’s hard to put into words what this means to all of us.”

Every day is a new day at Alternatives – and every day presents a new challenge. The coronavirus has impacted how they do business, and the way in which they provide services to the women living in the shelter. Alternatives provides comprehensive and collaborative services for survivors of intimate partner violence in Hamilton, Hancock, Henry, Madison, Marion, and Tipton Counties. They support survivors through the initial crisis, with the ultimate goal of helping them achieve abuse-free and financially independent lives. This pandemic has them scrambling to find emergency housing for victims of abuse, while also working feverishly to transition in-person support services to telehealth options for the women they serve.

Alternatives received $8,500 from Women’s Fund to provide emergency housing options, cleaning supplies, food, and cash support for clients with immediate needs. At a time when regulations and mandates require self-isolation, the staff at Alternatives fear for women whose abusers may use this pandemic to their advantage.

“Intimate partner violence is all about power and control,” explained Johna. “It’s common for an abuser to force their partner into isolation, so this crisis is giving them an even greater opportunity and excuse to do just that. We fully expect a spike of abuse during this pandemic. It’s very unsettling.”

Despite those harsh truths, Johna remains positive. In fact, on the day of this interview, she shared that she was sporting a “Human Kind. Be Both.” t-shirt – a shirt she had made for staff just a few short months ago. During this crisis it’s a reminder to do both: be human and be kind.

Johna credits her staff for being flexible, creative, and calm during this time. They have had to react quickly to the trials and tribulations each day brings. They are accepting each challenge as they come and conquering them together. One thing they don’t have to worry about now is the extra expense of caring for the women and children in their care.

Women’s Fund has been a longstanding partner and supporter of Alternatives. According to Johna, Women’s Fund was the first funder to call and offer support when the reality of COVID-19 set in and organizations were faced with a new set of challenges. The emergency grant undoubtedly helped, but Johna, like other nonprofit executive directors, is looking ahead to how this crisis will impact them in the long run.

“We have a lot of work to do moving forward, but the speed with which our community came together to rally around us gives me great hope,” said Johna. “More importantly, the smiles on our children’s faces gives me hope that we can do this – for a better, stronger future for them and for ourselves.” For that desperate mom, her children and so many others who may feel hopeless, there are Alternatives to domestic violence, and people who understand the behind-the-scenes struggles of this pandemic, ready to help.

If you would like to learn more about Alternatives, visit alternativesdv.org. Financial donations and donations of gift cards can be made online. Johana shared that one way everyone can help is to spend a few minutes writing words of encouragement and sending cards to the women and children living in the shelter, and even to staff. “Our women, just like everyone else, are scared,” said Johna. “But they come here without a strong support system. It’s amazing how powerful positive words can be at a time like this.” Notes and cards can be mailed to Alternatives, PO Box 1302, Anderson, IN 46015.

Women’s Fund of Central Indiana, a Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF) Fund, distributed $106,390 emergency grants to support women and girl serving organizations affected by the impact of COVID-19.