Liz Coleclough is the Director of Project DVORA, a JFS service for people affected by domestic violence. Here’s what a typical day looks like for her.
We’ve been trying to get our client into a local shelter, and I see in the database that one has space. Oftentimes there’s a ton of demand for one spot so we have to move quickly. I immediately call the client and arrange for her to contact the shelter for a screening. If she gets the spot, she’ll need to be picked up at a secure location, then dropped off at the shelter pick-up location this afternoon. There’s way more demand than supply for shelter beds, and I was relieved we could finally get her away from her abuser.
We receive a call from a potential new client, and I spend some time asking her general questions and assessing what her needs might be. She was referred by a friend and was a bit confused about why her friend gave her the DVORA number. We talk about domestic violence patterns. I ask her about the power dynamic in their relationship. I provide her with some additional resources to take a look at and tell her we are here if she has any other questions.
I head out of the office for a meeting with a client. We’re working on a safety plan for her and her children. We think of it like planning for a fire drill. We have clients ask themselves: ‘Is there an escape plan? A person to call? If I can’t get out, is there a place I can barricade myself until help comes?’ We come up with a few ideas, and I plan on following up with her next week to make sure she’s comfortable with what we decided.
The client’s ride to the shelter cancelled on her so I quickly switch gears and try to find her another option. I call a local cab company and arrange for the pick-up time.
The legal issues around domestic violence are extremely multifaceted. They are a big barrier to overcome. I place a call to the Northwest Justice Project in hopes that we can get a client some additional support for her complex divorce case. Unfortunately, their wait list for King County spans until March. While they prioritize cases by their court dates, the Project is limited by the extraordinary demand for services. I plan on bringing this case to the next DVORA team meeting to see what else can be done.
One of my colleagues stops by, and we debrief about her court visit today. She was there to support a client who hadn’t seen her spouse since their separation. Going to court can be extremely scary for our clients, so we always make sure we are there for them. It can be a taxing day on our staff, too. I always make sure to lend an ear to a fellow colleague to help them decompress if they need it.
I put the final touches on our youth education program notes. We’re working with 10th graders from Temple Beth Am on gender-based violence prevention as part of a 5-week series of classes. They’ll work through an empathy building exercise tomorrow night.
I call a client who we’re going to court with tomorrow. She’s looking to obtain a protection order against her spouse and is extremely anxious about it. I reassure her that we’ll be there from start to finish. As I hang up the phone, it rings again. My morning client has made it to the shelter. I’m relieved to know this will be her first night of safety in years.
By Leslie Sugiura
Savvy cook, extreme clam digger, urban gardener and mom to Stella the dog are just a few of the titles Leslie Sugiura keeps in rotation. She’s also the Director of Special Events for JFS where she spearheads the annual Community of Caring Luncheon.