COVID-19 has torn through our world over the past months, disrupting lives, putting the health of our family and friends at risk, and destabilizing the local community which we hold so dear. We are all coping in the best way we know how, as daily stories of resilience and ingenuity inspire us to keep pushing onward. In this series of blog posts, I am highlighting some amazing stories of resiliency and dedication in Portland’s non-profit sector — stories of organizations and community members who are fighting to serve our most affected populations.
This week I spoke with Raphael House of Portland, whose work engages our entire community in non-violent living through advocacy, education, and community outreach, and by providing a safe haven from domestic violence. Raphael House has supported those who are fleeing domestic partner violence in our community for over 40 years, helping individuals move from crisis to stability and build the lives they want for themselves and their children. They provide essential wraparound services to create futures that don’t involve violence, including an Advocacy Center with survivor-led support groups, and also prevention education work in middle and high schools across the Portland metro area that reaches over 3,700 students annually.
With COVID confining us to our homes, Raphael House’s services are more crucial than ever for those experiencing domestic violence. Recognizing that sheltering in place is very dangerous for people who live with abusers, Raphael House has continued operating at full steam to ensure full access to its resources, emergency services, and 24-hour hotline. This includes implementing rigorous social distancing and cleaning procedures for its whole building and 11-room shelter; continuing to help families move out of shelter into permanent housing during the COVID-19 pandemic; and even providing custom Activity Kits for families that include games, art supplies, and learning resources.
Like all of us, survivors of domestic abuse are facing a new and unknown landscape in the face of COVID-19. Many survivors are already living on the margins in society and struggling to make ends meet. In fact, more than 400 adults and children rely on Raphael House for support as they work to rebuild their lives after abuse. In response, Raphael House has increased its phone support to help survivors cope with unemployment, navigate stimulus payments, and identify new job resources. Advocates are also delivering food, hygiene supplies, and other critical resources to families in their programs across the community. (They distributed more than 7,450 pounds of food in March and April alone!) In addition to this practical support, Raphael House continues to offer support groups and youth activities (like story time) in virtual formats, ensuring that the emotional needs of survivors are not forgotten during this time of upheaval and uncertainty.
In the face of challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic, Raphael House has shown its unwavering commitment to its mission and to those in our community suffering from domestic partner violence. Despite the fear and uncertainty that weighs on all of our minds, those of us sheltering in place in safety and relative comfort are lucky to hold that sense of security. Many in our community are less fortunate, carrying additional uncertainty and fear as they gather the strength and support to flee abuse and build their own life of stability and freedom. This work is of critical importance now more than ever.
To learn more and donate to support Raphael House’s mission, visit https://raphaelhouse.com/.