Prudence Crandall Center has provided safe shelter to thousands of victims of domestic violence nearly five decades. But nothing prepared the agency for impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, and the staggering number of those seeking help over the summer months.
“The calls keep coming every week—from police, victims, family—all with the same urgent message: a victim and her children needing safety, needing immediate help,” Barbara Damon, executive director, explained.
The agency expected the possibility that abuse would rise during the early months of the pandemic, as victims were isolated at home with abusers, with tensions rising over finances, job losses, social isolation, home-schooling. Given concerns of COVID-19 exposure and a lack of privacy at home, victims may have found it too risky to seek help at that time. As the state re-opened in late May, that changed.
“Not only did the number of calls for help rise dramatically over the summer,” said Damon, “but we also saw an increase in the severity of abuse. As devastating a challenge as this crisis is for us right now, it’s our job to always be there for people in their time of need, to answer those calls for help.”
The shelter is funded and staffed to serve 22 residents. On one day in August, 37 adults and children were in shelter – meaning 168 percent capacity.
To handle the extra need when its shelter is full, the agency uses hotel rooms. Over the summer, that’s been constant, often with five to eight hotel rooms in use. At one time, 18 adults and children were in hotels, essentially a “double” shelter, yet without funding for these extra costs.
The financial impact on the agency has been staggering, growing from a concern to a true crisis: over $70,000 in hotels and meals since the pandemic began. An alarming spike in August resulted in nearly $30,000 in hotel and meal costs in that month alone. At the same time, the agency is tackling other COVID-19 related costs for deep-cleaning, PPE, air filtration improvements, etc. – totaling many tens of thousands of dollars in extra, unanticipated expenses.
“When we compare this year’s numbers to last year’s, it’s jaw-dropping,” Damon said. “Our hotline calls increased by 54 percent and the total sheltered by 53 percent in June and July compared to 2019. And we’ve had triple the number of new residents in shelter as we did last year at this time. We aren’t equipped for this much need, but we’ve had to step up.”
Financial contributions are needed to help the agency cover the extra costs incurred throughout the summer and the anticipated costs in the months ahead. Contributions may be mailed to 594 Burritt St., New Britain, CT, 06053. Donations may also be made online, prudencecrandall.org.
Prudence Crandall Center is the oldest domestic violence program in the state and primarily serves residents of Bristol, Berlin, Burlington, Kensington, New Britain, Plainville, Plymouth, Southington and Terryville, with supportive housing open to survivors from throughout Connecticut.