DVAM Celebrates 30 Years

For most people, October marks the beginning of Fall – also known as pumpkin spice season. For those of us who work with survivors of domestic violence, October marks the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). This year DVAM is celebrating its 30th anniversary and continues to raise awareness and unite individuals and organizations working on domestic violence issues during the month of October.

Over the last 30 years, a lot of work has been done to help survivors escape and to remain away from abuse. Yet, there is still a lot more to be done. Domestic Violence still claims the lives of many.  According to the American Psychology Association, on average, 3 or more women are murdered by their boyfriends or husbands.[1]

Although this statistic seems daunting, in 2016, DASH safely housed 126 adults and 231 children away from the threat of violence, prevented 390 survivors and their families from falling into homelessness, and educated 2,000 survivors and advocates about the housing protections afforded to victims under local and federal law. That is one less homicide, one less homeless family, one less victim but one more survivor.

By standing with survivors, together, as a community, we are creating a community where every home is a safe home.

[1] Intimate Partner Violence Facts & Resources. (2017). American Psychological Association. http://www.apa.org/topics/violence/partner.aspx?item=2


DASH Wellness Garden

DASH is excited to announce the unveiling of a new wellness garden at its Cornerstone residence in partnership with AvalonBay Communities, Studio39 Landscape Architecture and Ashton Manor Environmental!

DASH’s Cornerstone program provides access to 43-units of emergency-to-transitional safe housing and wrap around support services for survivors of domestic and sexual violence and their families in DC. In 2016, DASH’s Cornerstone program safely housed 159 survivors (62 Adults and 97 Children) away from the threat of violence while they rebuilt their lives on their own terms.

The project to renovate an underutilized outdoor space was spearheaded by AvalonBay Communities who brought on project partners Studio39 and Ashton Manor Environmental to design and construct a beautiful, multi-purpose outdoor wellness space for residents in DASH’s Cornerstone program. All of the project design, materials, and labor were generously donated through pro bono support from AvalonBay Communities, Studio39, Ashton Manor Environmental, and various local and national product vendors.

“We are so grateful to AvalonBay Communities, Studio39 Landscape Architecture, and Ashton Manor Environmental, our partners in this amazing effort. The wellness garden goes beyond aesthetics to provide a nurturing and re-centering space for the mind, body and spirit. Every detail encourages a deep sense of community while acknowledging the individual’s need for a meditative environment. In this garden, residents can work on remaining grounded in the midst of chaos knowing that HOME MEANS SAFETY,” said Koube Ngaaje, DASH’s Executive Director.

As we prepare to unveil our new space this week, we reflect on what this renovated outdoor space means to DASH- wellness, the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, garden, a rich, well-cultivated region. DASH Wellness Garden, a place to cultivate a healthy body and mind.


Meet DASH’s New Executive Director!

It’s a big year for DASH as we celebrate our 10-year anniversary and announce a new Executive Director! In August, DASH welcomed, Ms. Koube Ngaaje, to lead DASH and its innovative mission to provide access to safe housing and services for survivors and their families in DC as they rebuild their lives on their own terms.

Previously, as the Chief Operating Officer at the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) in Arlington, VA, Ms. Ngaaje oversaw a dramatic expansion in staff and services, successfully providing over 900,000 pounds of groceries each week to more than 6,000 people in need at 18 different distribution centers. Ms. Ngaaje is also on the board for the Alliance for Housing Solutions, which works to increase affordable housing availability in Arlington County and Northern Virginia.

“I was first drawn to DASH by the tremendous impact of the organization and now stand in awe of the strength and the dedication it took to deliver such quality services,” said Ms. Ngaaje in a press release.

DASH’s Founder, Peg Hacskaylo, who recently launched the National Alliance for Safe Housing (NASH) has transitioned from Executive Director to CEO to lead this national project to expand access to safe housing for survivors of domestic and sexual violence across the United States. 

DASH is looking forward to the future under the leadership of Ms. Ngaaje – but never forgetting how far it’s come as the largest dedicated safe housing provider for survivors of domestic and sexual violence and their families in the District. As we continue to grow and expand as an organization, DASH is thankful for all its local and national supporters.


Celebrating 10-Years!

It has been 10-years since DASH first opened its doors to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in the District. When DASH was first founded, there were less than 50 beds in the city dedicated specifically for victims of domestic violence. Survivors with multiple barriers, including mental health and addiction issues, had even fewer options for safe housing options. The vision of DASH was, and still is, to create a culture where safe housing is a human right share by everyone.

In honor of our 10-year anniversary, we thought it would be appropriate to pay homage to our beginnings and how we have grown to become the largest dedicated safe housing provider for survivors and their families in the District.

In…

2006: DASH was founded by current CEO, Peg Hacskaylo, to address the lack of safe housing options for survivors of domestic violence.

2007: The Housing Resource Center, DASH’s first program, opens offering the first one-stop shop to help survivors access safe housing throughout the District.

2008: The Empowerment Project opened to provide scattered site transitional–to-permanent safe housing  for survivors and their families.

2009: Temporary housing program, Huruma Place, opened doubling the number of safe beds in the District from 48 to 96.

2010: The Cornerstone Program opened, replacing Huruma Place as the District’s largest safe housing facility.

2013: The Survivor Resilience Fund began its’ first stages of development. The program currently provides emergency financial relief for survivors of domestic violence to maintain their current housing.

2015: The National Alliance for Safe Housing (NASH) is launched to provide nationwide training and technical assistance to improve access to safe housing for survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

2016: Evaluations of DASH’s programs and model demonstrate dramatic results for improved survivor safety, empowerment, and housing stability.

Today…

2017DASH celebrates 10 years as the largest dedicated safe housing provider for survivors and their families in Washington, DC!

Although there is still much more work to be done, we cannot help but celebrate all the successes we have had over the past 10 years. Here’s to many more safe nights, many more trained advocates, many more partnerships built, and to another 10 years.


DASH Featured in The Hill

The Hill recently featured a blog written by DASH’s Executive Director, Peg Hacskaylo, where she discussed the critical role “cash” plays in the lives of domestic violence survivors.

As the title of the blog states, “Cash is still king when it comes to keeping domestic violence survivors in their homes.” Survivors often find themselves facing financial hardships after their abuser is long gone as they work to recover from the financial abuse. As she highlights throughout her blog, even when survivors are able to remove their abuser from their lease, survivors are left with the responsibility of paying rent and any back pay due to the abuse.

Where do survivors turn to for help?

There are well known welfare programs like TANF that survivors can apply for financial assistance, but as DASH’S ED states, “many states choose not to continue providing cash assistance at the same level to poor families.”

This is where DASH’s ED stresses the importance of flexible funding programs so survivors can maintain their homes with their families. Flexible funding programs enable organizations to provide urgent cash assistance to those in need in areas they feel they need it (new tires, changing locks, daycare, etc.). An area of need that may seem unconnected to homelessness, i.e. new tires, is in fact, very much connected. For example, if a survivor was not able to drive their car to work because it needed new tires, but was not financially able to buy new tires, getting to work for the survivor would become extremely difficult. In the worst case scenario, losing their employment would become a reality. Now, their only source of income is gone. Flexible funding programs like DASH’s recently piloted Survivor Resilience Fund provide assistance in these gray areas.

DASH’s Survivor Resilience Fund (SRF), an innovative flexible funding program, was recently evaluated by researchers Dr. Cris Sullivan and Ms. Heather Bomsta from Michigan State University’s Consortium on Gender-based Violence. It was found that support through the SRF, “increased housing stability for 94 percent of the survivors that participated in the study.” The data from this study showed that flexible funding does in fact help survivors avoid homelessness.

“A one-time payment of as little as $200 to a family in need can be life-changing…”

If $200 is able to give a fresh start and a new beginning to survivors and their families, flexible funding should be considered and used as a tool to help survivors of domestic violence.

To read Peg Hacskylo’s full blog, click here: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/healthcare/300629-cash-is-still-king-when-it-comes-to-keeping-domestic-violence


DVAM: Past, Present and Future

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic Violence Awareness month, or DVAM for short, is a month that celebrates survivors. DVAM was created by the National Coalition for Domestic Violence, with those in mind who passed away from domestic violence (DV), those surviving from DV, and those who work together to end DV.  October 1987 was the first month DVAM was celebrated [1]. The U.S. Congress passed Public Law 101-112 in 1989, officially making October Domestic Violence Awareness Month 1.

Today, DVAM is celebrated all over the United States.  Locally, DVAM is celebrated by many non-profit organizations. DASH kicked off its celebration of DVAM, by partnering with the DC Coalition for Domestic Violence.  On September 27th, DASH staff and volunteers “Painted The Town Purple” at local metro stations by passing out postcards, purple buttons, and other #SpreadLoveDC resources to raise awareness among community members. If you would like to see photos of Paint The Town Purple, click here. Also, DASH’s Executive Director, Peg Hacskaylo was interviewed on NBC4 during their “Safe at Home” series where she discussed the lack of safe housing options for domestic violence survivors and highlighted resources in the local area for survivors and their families. If you would like to see this segment, click here

As we make our way through October, DASH will continue to celebrate DVAM through events like Purple Thursday (October 20th) and BalderDASH (October 27th). BalderDASH is our annual event to celebrate DVAM and to honor survivors and the impact of our safe housing programs in the community. To attend BalderDASH, find out more information here.  

Also, be sure to check out the National Domestic Violence Awareness Month Proclamation where President Obama officially proclaims October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and urges all Americans to take a stand against domestic violence. 

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[1] National Resource Center on Domestic Violence. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.nrcdv.org/dvam/DVAM-history


New Evaluation Report Released!

Over the last two years, DASH engaged Drs. Cris Sullivan and Nkiru Nnawulezi to conduct an evaluation of the DASH model. Dr. Sullivan, Director of Michigan State University’s Research Consortium on Gender-based Violence, is a national expert on evaluating the effectiveness of housing programs providing survivor-centered, empowering advocacy. Dr. Nnawulezi, who is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, conducts participatory research and evaluation studies with domestic violence shelters. Together, they designed a mixed-methods evaluation to explore the effectiveness of DASH Cornerstone Housing Program.

The DASH model is a value-based decision making and management model to working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence. The model is premised on three elements:

  1. Survivors with complex needs – often resulting from situations which involved multiple/sustained trauma, institutional oppression, and systemic marginalization – are best served through programs which are highly individualized, relational, and adaptable;
  2. The degree to which survivors present with such complex needs is inversely proportionate to the degree that program structure and service intensity that will effectively enable survivor safety and empowerment; and,
  3. Staff who work in such programs require an equivalent degree of autonomy, flexibility, and skill-building in order to implement such programs.

In other words, the best way to help people with complex needs is through a simple yet nuanced approach that supports both survivors, and their advocates, to be empowered and self-determining.

Drs. Sullivan and Nnawulezi developed a specific research model that examined the efficacy of the DASH model and structure and its impact on survivors’ ability to pursue longer-term safety and stability following their work with DASH.  Through the evaluation process, researchers working hand-in-hand with DASH staff and program participants developed a specialized evaluation instrument to measure the impact of DASH’s model on survivor outcomes.

This past month, DASH received the final evaluation report prepared by Dr. Nnawulezi. “We are really pleased to have evidence which supports our approach to working with survivors to achieve safety, empowerment, and self-determination,” said Peg Hacskaylo, DASH Executive Director.  

The final evaluation report can be read here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9iDJmqs9Mj_RzU2eU1kRVU4ZE0

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DASH is an innovator in providing access to safe housing and services for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and their families, as they rebuild their lives on their own terms. We envision a culture where safe housing is a human right shared by everyone.


DASH Receives Outstanding Leadership Award!

We are excited to announce that DASH was recognized today by the Center for Nonprofit Advancement as the 2015 honorable mention recipient of the Gelman Rosenberg and Freedman EXCEL Award!

The EXCEL Award, launched by the Center for Nonprofit Advancement, spotlights outstanding nonprofit leadership in the Washington, DC region. The award recognizes leadership achievement in the areas of innovation, motivation,community building, ethical integrity and strategic leadership. The award Selection Committee, made up of distinguished members of the business, philanthropic and nonprofit community, searched for examples of outstanding leadership that have moved beyond the recommended best practices to bring new levels of engagement that deliver results for the organization.

“The EXCEL honorable mention speaks to the passion and hard-work of the DASH staff and Board of Directors. As an organization we are dedicated to providing low barrier safe housing and services to survivors of domestic violence and their families as they work to rebuild their lives on their own terms,” states Peg Hacskaylo, DASH Executive Director, “While there is still a troubling gap in housing services for survivors in the DC region – we are hopeful that collaborations with the Center for Nonprofit Advancement and other local partners will help us continue to address housing needs in a comprehensive manner and ensure that every survivor has access to the safe, affordable housing that they need.”

As the an Honorable Mention DASH will will receive a $1,000 professional development grant; communication exposure through print and social media; and training and development opportunities for the staff and Executive Director from the Center’s Learning & Leadership.

 

 

 


Summer Gardening at DASH!

We reached out to a former Cornerstone Advocate and current DASH ambassador extraordinaire to talk about the community garden that she started in her time at DASH.

What motivated you to create the garden at DASH?

Well, there was a small garden plot to begin with, so we expanded to include perennial herbs and flowers and more vegetables. There were several residents who were into gardening and cooking (especially in Afusat’s cooking class!), and their enthusiasm was the greatest motivating factor. Plus, I love to garden and be outside.

In what ways do you think the garden fits into the larger DASH model and mission?

DASH seeks to be a holistic space for safety, healing and empowerment, and gardens can be that just that. A garden is about so much more than food production. It can be a therapeutic space; a place where friends and neighbors gather and connections are made; a place where we experience empowerment and growth; where we witness transformation and change. In these ways, like DASH, at its best, a garden is a home.

What is your favorite memory of the DASH garden?

I have many delightful memories with the kiddos in the garden – their wonder of strawberries, awe of sunflowers, enthusiasm for watering, their free spirited digging. One of my most memorable moments involved a resident who lives with schizophrenia. It was mid-summer and she had been spending time in the garden on a regular basis. She shared with me one evening after a doctor’s visit that her psychiatrist noticed a remarkable difference in her, specifically noting that she presented a lower level of anxiety and a greater level of clarity. Her medication had not changed; the doctor attributed this to her engagement in our garden. This was a powerful reminder that the DASH garden has an impact, not only in its beauty to behold, but also in tangible ways – physically, mentally, and spiritually — for us as individual and collective beings.

 

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What It Takes DC Blog #8: Fear, Depression and Anxiety

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Note: This is the 8th post in DASH’s ongoing What It Takes blog series, which examines and explains the various factors that make getting safe from abuse so difficult. Each post explores factors that survivors have to navigate on their journey to finding safety. Learn more about the campaign at the What It Takes page, and please spread the word: #WhatItTakesDC. 

This is a guest blog from the DASH Community Housing Advocate

The biggest barrier to safety for survivors of domestic violence is access to safe housing. We hear this again and again from the survivors who come to the Housing Resource Center looking for help. They want to leave but they don’t have the financial resources to live on their own and can’t get into a local shelter. But safe housing is not the only barrier.  For some survivors the biggest challenge to finding safety isn’t tangible; it’s fear, depression, low self-worth and anxiety.

At DASH we do everything in our power to provide access to safe housing so our clients can escape abuse and move forward with their lives. We don’t require proof of abuse or residency. We work with clients who are struggling with mental illness and substance abuse and we welcome survivors regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. We strive to meet survivors where they are when they need us.

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Sometimes, as hard as we try, as many resources as we offer, it still isn’t enough though. The reality is that finding safe, affordable housing in the District of Columbia is a long, difficult process that can take months of planning and waiting. Finding housing is already an exhausting process – but it’s especially difficult for survivors who often fear for their lives and have been hugely impacted by trauma. It takes a tremendous amount of strength to call us every week and just as much courage to discuss their lives with total strangers at our Housing Resource Clinic. There are clients that contact us frequently over a period of months all the while living with abusive circumstances.  Although these tasks may seem small they require levels of emotional energy that survivors must muster up from somewhere in an effort to stay consistent.

One woman who came to see me at Wednesday clinic was dressed from head to toe in black. She whispered so softly that I could barely hear her. She was in constant fear of her abuser, that he would find out she was leaving or where she was. She felt so threatened that she refused to have a phone as she believed he would use it to track her location. “I’m afraid to leave and I’m afraid to stay,” I remember her saying as we discussed her options. This was a survivor who was financially stable, but she was so beaten down both emotionally and physically that it had taken her years to reach out for help.

Most of the clients I meet with are either dealing with feelings of depression or anxiety due to their abusive relationships. Emotional trauma can manifest physically through lack of sleep or oversleeping, not eating or over eating, self-harm behaviors like substance use, digestive problems, headaches, weaken immune systems and poor emotion regulation like bursts of anger or sadness. They are often either debilitated and void of motivation and energy, or they can’t focus and seem riled up and angry.

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One man had an emotionally abusive girlfriend. She constantly berated him telling him he was worthless and would never amount to anything. His self-esteem got so low that he could barely get off the couch. He started to believe that he needed her, that he was nothing without her. He subsequently stopped taking care of himself. It took a lot of energy and courage for him to meet with me, and that was just the beginning of the process.

Another hurdle that clients deal with is sharing a child with their abuser, which is not uncommon. This can add a whole other level of complexity to leaving a relationship. One abuser had repeatedly threatened my client that if she left him he could make sure he got custody of their two children. She waited two years to try and leave because she didn’t want her children to stay a lone with him, afraid of what he was capable of. Other mothers deal with conflicted emotions, wanting their children to have a father while also needing to shield them from abuse.

Finding safety from abuse is never easy. We’ve talked about some of the reasons why like technological abuse and stalking, lack of financial resources and housing options. These are all huge barriers for survivors – but dealing with feelings of depression, anxiety, fear or low self- worth are equally challenging. It takes a lot for survivors to get in the door at the clinic or to find the courage to call DASH. For those who say, “just leave” to survivors I ask you go a little deeper and try to understand some of the difficult realities of domestic violence. It’s never that easy or that simple.

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