ROANOKE — Domestic violence counselors are preparing for a possible uptick in need as households start keeping close quarters amid the push to self-quarantine.
The imperative to curb the spread of COVID-19 has people nationwide spending more time than ever at home.
But not everyone has a safe home life, something groups like Total Action for Progress are keeping at the forefront of their minds.
“We are absolutely concerned,” said Stacey Sheppard, TAP’s director of human services.
The nonprofit’s crisis intervention staffers have seen before the effect of major snowstorms and other events that keep people shut in together and add strain to an already hazardous situation.
“These are increasingly stressful times already,” Sheppard said. “So we’ve been preparing and planning, talking through what ifs and how we can handle an increase in volume.”
Above all, advocates want people to know that services are still up and running.
Help is available for people in a dangerous situation.
“We’re still actively taking clients,” said Capt. Jamie Clay, residential director with the domestic violence shelter offered by the Salvation Army of Roanoke.
In times of wider crisis, advocates said, maintaining services is more important than ever.
Adaptability has been key as protocols shift to keep pace with the latest health guidelines. The Salvation Army now checks the temperature of all who come into its shelter, for example, and has made adjustments to allow for more distance between people as recommended.
SARA Roanoke, a sexual assault crisis center, has shifted its counseling clients to tele-appointments to observe social distancing and allow its staffers to work from home as much as possible.
The center still mans its round-the-clock emergency hotline and is never more than a phone call away, said Executive Director Teresa Berry.
“That hotline is up 24/7,” Berry said. “We’re working to maintain as much as we can while at the same time keeping everybody safe.”
Sheppard echoed that. TAP’s domestic violence services center also offers a 24-hour hotline whose staff stands ready to help those in distress.
“We are open,” she said. “And we’re happy to help in any way we can.”
Some services, such as accompanying a client to the hospital, have had to be paused due to COVID-19 precautions. But Sheppard said counselors are working to devise other ways to be there to support clients when an in-person presence isn’t possible.
“We’re just having to be a little more creative,” she said.
Family and friends are also encouraged to check in with loved ones who may be vulnerable. That type of outreach and support, as well as knowing there are resources available, can be pivotal.
The Salvation Army also runs a free hotline and can accommodate people with children in its domestic violence shelter.
Sheppard recommended taking a supportive approach when checking in on others and letting them know they have options.
“Reassure them that there are people who can help,” she said. “They don’t have to stay in that situation.”