As the only domestic violence shelter in Mecklenburg County, Safe Alliance averages 120 occupants per day. Even with an 80 bed facility, complete with trundle beds and pack and plays, Safe Alliance remains full almost daily. In 2017, Safe Alliance received almost 40,000 calls on their domestic violence hotline, the year before the calls were closer to 41,000. Mecklenburg County registered around 9,000 criminal reports around domestic violence incidents. Unfortunately, the number of intimate partner homicides were in the double digits the past few years.
Safe Alliance provides a robust program of services from the Clyde and Ethel Dickson Domestic Violence Shelter, to their Safe Alliance Victim Assistance/Legal Representation program, to their Sexual Trauma Resource Center and finally, to their Lake Norman location for services as well.
Tenille Banner, Director of Volunteers said, “While people tend to focus on the adult victims of an abusive relationship, at Safe Alliance we believe that is vitally important; but we also focus on the entire family in our service model.” She went on to say, “As much effort as we put into counseling and support groups for the parents, we equally focus on the children.”
The overwhelming needs in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area have led Safe Alliance to partner with Alliance for Hope to create a regional Family Justice Center in the area. Currently there are 120 Family Justice Centers around the country and in late Spring, Alliance for Hope will be in town helping Safe Alliance to determine their best plan to facilitate the Center in Charlotte to build the right way to truly serve the people. The benefit of having a Family Justice Center in Charlotte is that it can house all the services needed by a victim of domestic violence in one location. In terms of benefits the Family Justice Center can bring to the area, Banner said, “A lot of times the survivors are limited in terms of transportation so giving them one location to take advantage of all the services available will be a tremendous help. Having to use city transportation to access various locations for services is often times a hindrance for the victims to get the help they so desperately need.”
Safe Alliance has a strong relationship with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, the District Attorney’s Office, and many other local government organizations. Working together, they all truly believe this centralized Family Justice Center will revolutionize the way they care for the victims and their families in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.
Banner told the story of one such family whose lives have been completely changed by Safe Alliance. A mother and her three children came to the shelter in January of last year. The mother had finally found the courage to leave her abusive relationship after seeing the effects on her children. Her two sons had become angry, and disrespectful. Her daughter had become a victim of sexual assault and was suffering from enormous body-conscious issues and had become a recluse. She realized her children were becoming products of the environment they were growing up in, and she wanted better for them. When their family entered the shelter, the mother had only a highschool education and she was very limited on what jobs she would qualify for. Through the encouragement of the volunteers at Safe Alliance, this mother has gone to cosmetology school, fulfilling a lifelong dream for herself and building for a better future for her family. By witnessing their mother’s accomplishments and ownership over her own life, her children have begun to change as well. Her sons are more peaceful, more respectful of their mother and kinder to their sister. The volunteers of Safe Alliance have helped her daughter find a better sense of identity and breakthrough from her own personal trauma. Safe Alliance never puts an end date on someone’s stay in their shelter, as long as they are working towards their goals. This particular family was in the shelter for nine months and today they are on their own in transitional housing through Safe Alliance. They are able to now focus on what is important to them and find the better life they always wanted.
Everyone’s journey is different, Safe Alliance is able to walk alongside individuals and families no matter where they are in their journey.
There are numerous opportunities to get involved with Safe Alliance and to help continue their mission. As one could imagine with running a completely full shelter the everyday necessities are always running low. Things like laundry detergent are a much needed item at Safe Alliance. With 120 people housed, some who only brought limited clothing, laundry is a constant process and detergent is always in demand. Diapers. Safe Alliance is for families, not just adults, and diapers are an expensive item that many are unable to afford. Safe Alliance always needs sizes 5-7, and pull ups for the bigger kiddos who are not quite potty trained. Daily cleaning supplies like all purpose cleaners, window cleaner, dish detergent are also always in demand. Each person that arrives at Safe Alliance receives a “welcome kit” that is equipped with linens, towels, and toiletries. Banner said, “Any item you use in your everyday life is something we could definitely use to help those we are serving at Safe Alliance.”
Volunteers at Safe Alliance are now preparing for their large, spring fundraiser on April 28th called, “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes,” where men will wear high heels and walk to and from NoDa Brewery raising awareness and funds for Safe Alliance. This family-friendly event is a big hit with folks of all ages and Safe Alliance is always looking for sponsors and participants. Women are encouraged to walk as well, to encourage the men, and they can just wear tennis shoes!
We at Thread Talk are honored to highlight Safe Alliance in Charlotte, North Carolina this month and look forward to partnering up to help the survivors of Mecklenburg County.