While living in Kansas City, Tom was abused, stalked, and harassed by his female partner. He wasn’t safe. Desperate to escape, he made his way to Catholic Charities of Omaha via a 10-hour train ride. Tom – the only male client at the shelter – quickly became a source of inspiration and positivity to other clients.
During support groups he shared his struggles, breaking down the stigma that domestic violence only impacts women. As a master chef, Tom wowed clients with the meals he prepared. Encouraged by Catholic Charities staff, Tom spent days pounding the pavement to apply for jobs – a key to his ability to thrive.
“You have been the best support system for me. Thank you for always having an open ear to listen to me,” Tom said to shelter staff.
Tom was one of 82 adults and their 65 children served at Catholic Charities’ shelter in the past year.
Eventually, Tom was connected with the Metropolitan Reentry Assistance Program and found a job through their career opportunity board. The Catholic Charities Housing Advocate helped him find a home close to his new job. Today, Tom is safe, settled, and working to build a healthy future.
The City of Omaha awarded Catholic Charities $176,373 from the ARPA Community Grant Program to support their domestic violence services in 2022 and 2023 in the wake of the pandemic. By the middle of the pandemic, Catholic Charities saw a 124% increase in the number of calls to their Domestic Violence Hotline over pre-pandemic levels. Their work supporting survivors also changed. Inflation and lack of housing caused by the pandemic had a ripple effect throughout the various support services each client received.
As cases soared, Catholic Charities provided victims safety and support through the following:
- 24/7 Crisis Hotline: Day or night, domestic violence victims can speak to a trained advocate through the hotline. For those in life-threatening danger, the advocates help create an escape plan to access their emergency shelter.
- Emergency Shelter: This is a respite for victims escaping violence. The shelter is staffed at all times. Catholic Charities provides case management, advocacy, safety planning, community support, and referrals. This includes connecting each client with housing resources to help them build a safe, homeless-free future. For children, they provide specialized support led by a Child DV Advocate.
- Sheltering, Aftercare, and Outreach Advocacy: Staff help clients write safety plans and learn about violence and how to avoid it. Their Aftercare Services provide one year of post-shelter support.
This means that clients like Tom are supported through every step of their journey out of domestic violence. They are offered an escape plan, a temporary place to live with others experiencing similar challenges, a support system, housing referrals, job assistance, and a year of aftercare to continue supporting them during the first year of this new chapter in their lives
“Healing is ongoing. When a client leaves our shelter, the moment is joyous, but hardly a goodbye,” said Executive Director Denise Bartels. “Clients who complete our program are enrolled in Community Reintegration Services. Our advocates provide post-program support connecting clients with resources and community.”
ABOUT THIS STORY
The City of Omaha partnered with the Omaha Community Foundation to administer the ARPA Community Grant Program because of the foundation’s work with local nonprofits and awareness of community needs. The grant program focused on providing funding to expand or enhance existing programs in areas of Crisis Intervention & Violence Prevention, and Workforce Development.
The City of Omaha ARPA Community Grant Program awarded $9.6 million to 35 nonprofit organizations. Eligible programs included youth programs such as mentoring, gang prevention and intervention, mental health, crisis response, and assistance to unemployed workers including workforce readiness training, certification, and employment services.
This project is being supported, in whole or in part, by federal award number SLFRP0230 awarded to the City of Omaha by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.