While our nation remains in shock over the unprecedented and unthinkable ways that COVID-19 has changed our lives, domestic violence is one of the most horrific. The pressure, anxiety and isolation caused by the coronavirus has triggered an increase in abuse and violence in the home – the very place we have been mandated to stay for safety. It is a sad and tragic irony.

The Julian Center is currently helping 25% more people than this time last year and, of those, 45% are children. The type of requests and inquiries coming into the Center have changed during this pandemic. They’re responding to very violent situations, answering questions about what to do when – and if – the victim can escape to safety, filing more protection orders, and trying to find creative ways to work with clients on a safety plan when face-to-face meetings are impossible. Every situation is different, and in this unprecedented time every situation requires a its own unique approach.

“The demand is up for our services, we’re working in very rare conditions, and everything is having an impact on our direct-service providers and staff,” said Jeff Brown, CEO, the Julian Center. “None of us could have predicted this situation, but here we are. All I can ask of my team is to continue to serve our clients and to do it safely, under the guidelines and safety precautions provided to us to follow. My team continues to amaze me in all they’ve been asked to do. It’s a job assignment few of us can even fathom undertaking.”

As a way to help Julian Center address the needs of its increased clientele, Women’s Fund granted the organization $8,000 to provide staff incentives, technology improvements, create survivor activities, and support facility needs.

According to Jami Schnurpel, Director of Survivor Services at the Julian Center, the grant money was used to focus primarily on survivors and the frontline staff. Due to social distancing guidelines, families at the Julian Center are staying in their rooms, with limited access to the two TV/entertainment rooms available to residents. Additionally, they have the added challenge of balancing e-learning requirements with limited technology available.

With the grant from Women’s Fund, the Julian Center was able to provide families with access to smart TVs in their rooms, self-help and self-care packages, and extra activities for entertainment. They also provided incentives and small gifts of appreciation for frontline staff as a way to recognize and thank them for their work during this time. While Jami says those investments may sound simple, they proved to be valuable – and they wouldn’t be possible without Women’s Fund.

“The funds couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Jeff. “Not only is the demand for our services up, so are our expenses. We’ve also lost revenue after closing our Thrifty Threads store and canceling our largest fundraiser of the year. The gift was really needed, and very much appreciated.”

For Jeff, one of his greatest joys during this time has been seeing the kids in their care smile, to find things to laugh about, to be able to play, and to have the chance to simply be a kid. “It’s pretty incredible to see the resiliency of these kids, who have seen and suffered the unthinkable,” said Jeff. “They come to us with fear in their eyes, but over time are able to relax and be kids. That’s incredibly rewarding.”

The Julian Center serves nearly 6,000 people a year through emergency shelter, transitional living and in the community. Today, they are over capacity and expect the numbers to continue to rise through the perils of this pandemic. If you or someone you know has questions or simply needs support, call the Julian Center anytime at 317.920.9320.