Domestic violence occurs in every community, and the Upstate is no exception. In Anderson, Greenville, Oconee, and Pickens counties, victims can call Safe Harbor 24/7 to access services including shelter, case management, counseling, advocacy and support groups. From January–November of 2018, Safe Harbor received 2,238 crisis calls—up 28 percent from 2017.
“These are people experiencing the worst day of the worst season of their lives. We’re there to help them get their bearings and figure out what to do next to be safe and independent,” said Becky Callaham, executive director. “We charge nothing for our services,whether they need someone to talk to, help making a safety plan, a safe place to stay with their children, or help getting an order of protection.”
In addition to intervention services, Safe Harbor offers prevention and community outreach programs like the school-based Relationship Education Project, which teaches middle and high-school students about healthy relationships and warning signs of relationship violence.
“It’s important to have those conversations with young people,” Callaham said. “When you change attitudes, you can change behavior and have a long-term impact.”
Other community outreach services include providing speakers for faith and community groups; trainings for healthcare providers, educators, and law-enforcement personnel; and advocacy to raise awareness among fellow community service providers of domestic violence, its impact, and services available at Safe Harbor.
Although federal grants cover many safety-net intervention services, other critical needs are met by gifts from local philanthropic organizations. In 2009, Greenville Women Giving, a special initiative of the Community Foundation, provided funding for security at Safe Harbor’s community services building. A 2015 GWG Grant awarded $49,000 for the “ManUPstate” campaign, which encourages men to stand against mistreatment of women, create a culture of respect, and serve as role models for the next generation.
The Community Foundation has supported Safe Harbor through Capacity Building Grants and other programs geared towards increasing effectiveness, said Bob Morris, president.
“Becky and her team have attended Shine the Light Nonprofit Forums, professional development seminars that promote leadership of our local organizations. Safe Harbor also participated in a community-wide capacity initiative which collected data from 43 nonprofit partners to assess capacity needs and opportunities,” Morris said. “The Community Foundation invests in both programs to strengthen Greenville County’s nonprofit system.”
A 2014 Capacity Building Grant funded technology upgrades including new computers, an upgraded accounting system, and wireless Internet access. A second, in 2016, funded a feasibility study to gauge the community’s interest in and willingness tosupport the development of a new facility. Results of the study were favorable, and beginning in 2019, Safe Harbor will begin raising funds to replace their current Greenville domestic violence shelter.
It comes not a moment too soon: The current 34-bed facility was modified from a home built over 100 years ago. In the first 11 months of 2018, Safe Harbor had to turn away 313 families needing emergency shelter—up 29 percent from 2017. Not only is it crowded, it offers residents little privacy, with as many as eight clients sharing a bedroom.
“Our three shelters are usually full, so increasing capacity is important. But victims need more than a safe space to spend the night. After the trauma they’ve experienced, it’s hard to have to share a bedroom and bathroom with strangers,” Callaham said. “The new facility will have privacy for families who are healing, plus thoughtful, comfortable spaces for teenagers and children.”