The need for our services quickly grew during the pandemic, both in numbers and intensity. We experienced exponential increases in requests for housing and food assistance, as well as safety planning, legal help, and mental health therapy.
The pandemic forced abusers, survivors, and children into extended close contact, increasing the likelihood and severity of violence. Survivors who had already left abusive partners found it harder to stay safe and struggled to maintain their economic stability.
Thanks to creative planning, technology, and the dedication of our staff, LifeWire quickly adjusted in March 2020 to keep our shelters open and offer all other services virtually. To meet emerging needs, we expanded critical and emergency services.
We kept a skeleton staff at our shelters and continued to accept new families as shelter space became available. Thanks to new safety measures, and a little luck, there weren’t any confirmed COVID-19 cases in our shelters. Advocates became deeply creative to meet the new challenges:
Communicating with survivors through safe words and secure emails when an abusive partner was almost always home
Purchasing necessities online for families with health concerns so they didn’t have to venture out for diapers, wipes, or medicine
Using promissory letters and landlord education to help survivors relocate
Virtually accompanying survivors through court proceedings
Helping participants purchase phones, computers or other technology needed to access services
We anticipate that the effects of the pandemic in terms of home displacement, rental arrears, legal backlogs, trauma, mental health concerns and other immediate survivor needs will continue for 2-3 years after Washington state reopens. For survivors, this crisis is far from over
Every time Aleah tried to leave or hide, her abusive partner tracked her down. Eventually, one of his violent outbursts left her with a traumatic brain injury and a growing stack of medical bills. When he landed in jail for the assault, Aleah was also left to pay their shared rent and the other bills. She tried to find work, but jobs were scarce during the first months of the pandemic. Then her doctor declared her unable to work for at least a few months while she healed from her brain injury.
Aleah was months behind on her rent when she reached out to LifeWire for financial help. Despite the eviction moratorium, her landlord pressed her weekly about paying the back rent accumulated since her assault. Aleah told her advocate that she didn’t know where else to go for help. She had immigrated to the U.S. from the Middle East for school nearly a decade before, leaving most of her family behind.
To give Aleah the stability she needed to address her health and other DV-related issues, LifeWire paid her rent twice. When her abuser got out of jail and assaulted her again, Aleah called her advocate for help with crisis safety planning. She worked with her LifeWire legal advocate to get a Domestic Violence Protection Order. In the process, Aleah learned how to advocate for herself if she needed to call the police on her abuser again. Equipped with a better understanding of the American legal system, Aleah found a low-cost lawyer to support her case.
Feeling safer, Aleah worked with her advocate on becoming economically stable. She connected with the additional health services she needed to heal and applied for medical bill relief. Aleah finally felt able to sleep at night when she connected with Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) – King County, which will help repay her back rent. Aleah is still recovering from her head injury, but she hopes to find a new job soon. She recently told her advocate, “I’m doing really well.”
We support survivors:
LifeWire partners with survivors on their individual journeys toward renewed strength, stability, and empowerment. Our advocates listen to survivors as they describe their needs and help them identify resources that will enable them to build safer lives. By tailoring our support to each survivor, we are able to respond to survivors’ unique barriers, challenges, and goals.
Help us ensure that LifeWire’s Advocacy Services are here for every survivor who needs them when they need them.
Thanks to your support, last year:
969 survivors worked one-on-one with a LifeWire advocate to heal from physical, financial, emotional, and other forms of abuse.
209 participants received support from LifeWire’s Legal Advocacy services team for domestic violence-related issues, including Protection Orders and custody challenges.
158 adults, children, and youth received domestic violence-informed mental health therapy to heal form their experiences.
Emma attended LifeWire’s healthy relationships class as part of the 10th-grade health curriculum at her high school. She didn’t know anything about DV or dating violence before the presentation. But as she listened, she realized that her friend Becca might be living in a house where DV was occurring. One slide in the presentation shared tips about how to talk to a friend who might be experiencing DV. After class, Emma spoke to one of our staff members and then used the advice to reach out to her friend. Becca was glad that Emma asked about what was happening at home and found it helpful to talk to someone who listened without shame or blame.
Emma and Becca both started coming to the student leadership group that LifeWire facilitates at their school. Becca found support from peers who care about DV issues and understand the challenges of coping with these issues during the pandemic. Emma was surprised to learn how many kids are impacted by DV and dating violence and was excited to learn that DV is preventable.
Emma says, “As I talk to more students about their experiences with DV and dating violence, I become more passionate about wanting to prevent it.” She was elected president of the leadership group for 2021 and is working to reach and involve new groups of kids at her high school in the movement.
We promote healthy relationships
LifeWire partners with area high schools, Bellevue College, and UW Bothell to provide young people with the tools they need to build healthy relationships and identify unhealthy behaviors. We also mentor athletic coaches and student leaders to foster informed youth communities that feel empowered to prevent violence.
More young people need skills to build healthy relationships. Help us expand to additional high schools and colleges.
Thanks to your support, last year:
796 High school and college students learned about dating violence and healthy relationships.
4,103 Community members learned about domestic violence and LifeWire’s services.
After weeks spent shuffling her two kids by bus between her friends’ apartments, Luisa finally felt she could rest. They’d found a safer place to stay at My Sister’s Home, LifeWire’s emergency shelter.
Her abuser knew that Luisa was an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador who spoke little English, and she depended upon him for housing and other basic needs. But Luisa wanted to give her children a home free from violence. So she’d packed a few belongings and left.
As a victim of crime, Luisa learned she was eligible for a U visa that would allow her to stay in the U.S. with her American-born children. Over several months, Luisa worked with a lawyer and a translator to plead her case. Her Spanish-speaking advocate helped to translate the legal language and listened as Luisa practiced her story for court. Getting her visa and work permit was a huge relief. Luisa was able to renew her I.D. and open a bank account for the first time.
After finding a job, Luisa began to search for housing. Through King County’s Coordinated Entry, her advocate matched Luisa with a housing program run by Muslim Housing Services. Because Luisa had no rental history, it took months working with her advocate to find an affordable apartment. After a year and a half at My Sister’s Home, Luisa was excited to move into a complex where both the office staff and maintenance workers spoke Spanish. Once the housing program ends, Luisa feels she’ll be ready to take over the whole rent.
We provide paths to safer housing
Our advocates work with survivors to overcome challenges that prevent them from finding and maintaining safer and stable housing. We offer confidential emergency and transitional housing and housing-first programs that prioritize getting or keeping survivors housed so they can improve their safety and pursue personal goals.
Twice as many survivors needed housing or shelter last year than we could serve. Help us ensure that no one has to choose between staying in a violent home or becoming homeless.
Thanks to your support, last year:
368 families and 982 individuals received safe, confidential shelter and housing services.
survivors and their families found 29,385 nights of safe shelter through LifeWire’s emergency shelter and transitional housing.
2020 was an incredibly challenging year, as the pandemic, racial reckoning, political unrest, and economic downturn impacted survivors of domestic violence (DV) in very personal ways. Isolation grew and life became increasingly dangerous. At the same time, incomes fell and access to resources diminished. The combined pressures on survivors’ lives changed the daily rhythm of LifeWire’s work and strained our capacities. In no way was 2020 “business as usual.”
Yet, I am proud to say that LifeWire continued to serve survivors throughout the tumult. Our staff has shown up – remotely – with courage, creativity, and grit. We provided 368 families that would have been homeless with shelter and housing solutions. Our legal advocates helped twice as many survivors file for protection orders. We continued to teach youth about healthy relationships and shifted support groups online.
LifeWire also restated and reaffirmed our commitment to increasing racial equity, recognizing that domestic violence is intertwined with all other forms of oppression. In 2020 our staff became majority BIPOC, with representation at all levels to better reflect our community. We established a racial equity Task Force comprised of board and staff members to move forward specific, measurable goals and we approved and published our first set of racial equity values. LifeWire was able to do all this because you, our community of donors and partners, stood with us to make vital services possible and support our growth and evolution.
On behalf of the board, staff and the survivors we serve,