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The last two years have been difficult for all of us, as we’ve collectively weathered the challenges of living through a global pandemic. And yet, our struggles as individuals during this time have looked different from each other. COVID-19 pulled back the curtain on the disparities that impact communities of color experience, and their access to healthcare, food, shelter, and financing.
While we are incredibly grateful that we’ve had the ability to continue serving survivors through this time, we acknowledge that Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities continue to face racial prejudice and oppression from systemic and institutional racism. Over the last 24 months, we witnessed the lynching of Ahmaud Arbery, and the murders of Breonna Taylor, Daunte Wright, George Floyd, and Quadry Sanders and many others, including the most recent white supremacist terrorist attack on Black community members in Buffalo, New York. We’ve seen increased violence toward Asian Americans rooted in xenophobia and misogyny and many viral moments of racial bias and hatred on social media channels. And while none of this is new, technology, social media, and a 24-hour news cycle have catapulted this historic struggle into our daily conscience.
For the last eight years, Emerge has evolved and transformed through our commitment to becoming a multicultural, anti-racist organization. Guided by the wisdom of our community, Emerge centers the experiences of people of color both in our organization and in public spaces and systems to provide truly supportive domestic abuse services that can be accessible to ALL survivors.
We invite you to join Emerge in our ongoing work to build a more inclusive, equitable, accessible, and just post-pandemic society.
For those of you who have followed this journey during our previous Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) campaigns or through our social media efforts, this information probably isn’t new. If you have not accessed any of the written pieces or videos in which we uplift our community’s diverse voices and experiences, we hope you will take some time to visit our written pieces to learn more.
Some of our ongoing efforts to disrupt systemic racism and prejudice in our work include:
Systemic change requires time, energy, self-reflection, and at times discomfort, but Emerge is steadfast in our unending commitment to building systems and spaces that acknowledge the humanity and worth of every human being in our community.
We hope you will stay by our side as we grow, evolve, and build accessible, just, and equitable support for all domestic violence survivors with services that are centered in an anti-racist, anti-oppression framework and are truly reflective of the diversity of our community.
We invite you to join us in creating a community where love, respect, and safety are essential and inviolable rights for everyone. We can achieve this as a community when we, collectively and individually, have tough conversations about race, privilege, and oppression; when we listen and learn from our community, and when we proactively support organizations working towards the liberation of marginalized identities.
You can actively engage in our work by signing up for our enews and sharing our content on social media, participating in our community conversations, organizing a community fundraiser, or donating your time and resources.
Together, we can build a better tomorrow – one that brings racism and prejudice to an end.
This week, Emerge honors all the staff who work with children and families at Emerge. The children coming into our Emergency Shelter program were faced with managing the transition of leaving their homes where violence was happening and moving into an unfamiliar living environment and the climate of fear that has permeated this time during the pandemic. This abrupt change in their lives was only made more challenging by the physical isolation of not interacting with others in person and was undoubtedly confusing and scary.
Children living at Emerge already and those receiving services at our Community-Based sites experienced an abrupt shift in their in-person access to staff. Layered onto what the children were managing, families were also forced to figure out how to support their children with schooling at home. Parents who were already overwhelmed with sorting out the impact of the violence and abuse in their lives, many of whom were also working, simply did not have the resources and access to homeschooling while living in a shelter.
The Child and Family team sprang into action and quickly ensured that all children had the necessary equipment to attend school online and provided weekly support to students while also quickly adapting programming to be facilitated via zoom. We know that delivering age-appropriate support services to children who have witnessed or experienced abuse is crucial to healing the whole family. Emerge staff Blanca and MJ talk about their experience serving children during the pandemic and the difficulties of engaging children via virtual platforms, their lessons learned over the last 18 months, and their hopes for a post-pandemic community.
bell hooks said, “But love is really more of an interactive process. It’s about what we do, not just what we feel. It’s a verb, not a noun.”
As Domestic Violence Awareness Month begins, I reflect with gratitude on the love we were able to put into action for survivors of domestic violence and for our community during the pandemic. This difficult period has been my greatest teacher about actions of love. I witnessed our love for our community through our commitment to ensuring that services and support remained available for individuals and families experiencing domestic violence.
It is not a secret that Emerge is made up of members of this community, many of whom have had their own experiences with hurt and trauma, who show up every day and offer their heart to survivors. This is undoubtedly true for the team of staff who deliver services across the organization—emergency shelter, hotline, family services, community-based services, housing services, and our men’s education program. It is also true for everyone who supports the direct service work to survivors through our environmental services, development, and administrative teams. It is especially true in the ways we all lived in, coped with, and did our best to help participants through the pandemic.
Seemingly overnight, we were catapulted into a context of uncertainty, confusion, panic, grief and a lack of guidance. We sifted through all of the information that inundated our community and created policies that tried to prioritize the health and safety of the nearly 6000 people we serve every year. To be sure, we are not healthcare providers tasked to care for those who are sick. Yet we serve families and individuals who are at risk every day of serious harm and in some cases death.
With the pandemic, that risk only increased. Systems that survivors rely on for help shut down around us: basic support services, courts, law enforcement responses. As a result, many of the most vulnerable members of our community disappeared into the shadows. While most of the community was at home, so many folks were living in unsafe situations where they did not have what they needed to survive. The lockdown decreased the ability for people experiencing domestic abuse to receive support by phone because they were in the home with their abusive partner. Children didn’t have access to a school system to have a safe person to talk to. Tucson shelters had decreased capacity to bring individuals in. We saw the impacts of these forms of isolation, including increased need for services and higher levels of lethality.
Emerge was reeling from the impact and trying to maintain contact safely with folks living in dangerous relationships. We moved our emergency shelter overnight into a non-communal facility. Still, employees and participants reported having been exposed to COVID on a seemingly daily basis, resulting in contact tracing, reduced staffing levels with many vacant positions, and staff in quarantine. In the midst of these challenges, one thing remained intact—our love for our community and deep commitment to those who are seeking safety. Love is an action.
As the world seemed to stop, the nation and community breathed in the reality of the racialized violence that has been occurring for generations. This violence exists in our community, too, and has shaped the experiences of our team and the people we serve. Our organization attempted to figure out how to cope with the pandemic while also creating space and beginning healing work from the collective experience of racialized violence. We continue to work toward liberation from the racism that exists all around us. Love is an action.
The heart of the organization kept beating. We took agency phones and plugged them in at people’s homes so that the hotline would continue to operate. Staff immediately began hosting support sessions from home telephonically and on Zoom. Staff facilitated support groups on Zoom. Many staff continued to be in the office and have been for the duration and continuation of the pandemic. Staff picked up extra shifts, worked longer hours, and have been holding multiple positions. Folks came in and out. Some got sick. Some lost close family members. We have collectively continued to show up and offer our heart to this community. Love is an action.
At one point, the entire team providing emergency services had to quarantine due to potential exposure to COVID. Teams from other areas of the agency (administrative positions, grant writers, fundraisers) signed up to deliver food to families living at the emergency shelter. Staff from across the agency brought toilet paper when they found it available in the community. We arranged pick-up times for folks to come to the offices that were shut down so that folks could pick up food boxes and hygiene items. Love is an action.
One year later, everyone is tired, burned out, and hurting. Still, our hearts beat and we show up to provide love and support to survivors who have nowhere else to turn. Love is an action.
This year during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we are choosing to lift up and honor the stories of the many employees of Emerge who helped this organization stay in operation so that survivors had a place where support could happen. We honor them, their stories of pain during illness and loss, their fear of what was to come in our community—and we express our endless gratitude for their beautiful hearts.
Let us remind ourselves this year, during this month, that love is an action. Every day of the year, love is an action.
Emerge is proud to participate in the Licensed Legal Advocates Pilot Program with the University of Arizona law school’s Innovation for Justice Program. This program is the first of its kind in the nation and will address a critical need for people experiencing domestic abuse: access to trauma-informed legal advice and assistance. Two of Emerge’s lay legal advocates have completed coursework and training with practicing attorneys and are now certified as Licensed Legal Advocates.
Designed in partnership with the Arizona Supreme Court, the program will test a new tier of legal professional: the Licensed Legal Advocate (LLA). LLAs are able to provide limited legal advice to domestic violence (DV) survivors in a limited number of civil justice areas such as protective orders, divorce and child custody.
Prior to the pilot program, only licensed attorneys have been able to provide legal advice to DV survivors. Because our community, like others nationwide, severely lacks affordable legal services in comparison to the need, many DV survivors with limited resources have had to navigate civil legal systems alone. Moreover, most licensed attorneys have not been trained in providing trauma-informed care and may not have an in depth understanding about the very real safety concerns for DV survivors while engaged in legal proceedings with someone who has been abusive.
The program will benefit DV survivors by enabling advocates who understand the nuances of DV to provide legal advice and support to survivors who otherwise might go into court alone and who would have to operate within the many rules of legal procedure. While they cannot represent clients as an attorney would, LLAs are able to help participants complete paperwork and provide support in the courtroom.
The Innovation for Justice Program and evaluators from the Arizona Supreme Court and Administrative Office of the Courts will track data to analyze how the LLA role has helped participants resolve justice issues and has improved case outcomes and expedited case resolution. If successful, the program will roll out across the state, with the Innovation for Justice Program developing training tools and a framework to implement the program with other nonprofits working with survivors of gender-based violence, sexual assault and human trafficking.
We are excited to be a part of such innovative and survivor-centered efforts to redefine DV survivors’ experience in seeking justice.
As we approach the back-to-school season, you can help ensure that children at Emerge have one less thing to worry about as they get ready for the new school year in the midst of all they are facing at home.
We want to make sure children have access to all new school materials they need for a successful year, and to accomplish this, we have created a list of the most important school supplies required for this new school year.
If you would like to support school-aged children at Emerge as they get ready for the new school year, please check the list below of school supplies needed. Items can be drop off at our administrative office, located at 2445 East Adams St. from Monday through Friday between 10a and 2p.
We appreciate your support of our community!
Home Room supplies
Gift cards to Walmart, Target, Dollar Tree, etc. in amounts of $5 to $20
Did you know that you can direct a portion of your state tax dollars to support individuals and families experiencing domestic abuse? The Arizona tax credit for qualifying charitable organizations allows any individual who owes Arizona state income tax to claim a dollar-for-dollar credit for their donation to Emerge and other qualifying organizations, up to $400 for an individual filer or $800 for joint filers. This is a credit, not a deduction, meaning every dollar you donate reduces what you owe the state by that amount. This credit can only be claimed by individuals, not businesses, corporations, or groups. We invite you to take advantage of this opportunity to work together towards ending abuse in our community. Click here to make your contribution.
Donations can be made anytime during the tax year and up to April 15 of the following year. This year, because of the change in the federal tax filing date, the state of Arizona has extended the deadline for charitable donations and tax filing to May 17, 2021. This gives you an extra chance to give and receive the tax credit for 2020! You may also claim any donation made during 2021 on your 2021 taxes.
Claiming the credit is easy. When you file your Arizona state income tax forms, include form 321 to list your donation(s) and reduce your taxes by the corresponding amount on your tax form. If you have any questions about applying your charitable donations to your taxes, we recommend that you speak with an accountant or tax professional. Emerge staff are not qualified to provide specific advice on tax questions. Additional information can also be found at www.givelocalkeeplocal.org