By Mitch Borden
As Texans hunker down at home with their families to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, some face dangers inside of their own homes.
Local nonprofits in the Permian Basin are reporting an uptick from victims seeking help in dangerous domestic situations. The pandemic and current oil bust can create increasingly dangerous environments for those in abusive relationships.
Marfa Public Radio’s Mitch Borden spoke with Lee Anna Good of Safe Place of the Permian Basin, a shelter in the Midland-Odessa area, about the resources available to victims of domestic abuse during the pandemic.
(Disclosure: Until recently, Lee Anna Good served on Marfa Public Radio’s board of directors.)
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Listen to the complete interview by pressing play on the above audio player.
Mitch Borden: What are the shelters seeing right now as more people are forced to be at home and the coronavirus pandemic and oil bust progress in the region?
Lee Anna Good: Lots of people don’t understand that home is not a safe place for everyone. And we’re seeing a definite uptick in hotline calls. If you imagine the intensity of staying at home or being forced to stay at home all day with an abuser, along with extreme financial insecurity, your children being at home, not necessarily having a way to homeschool… I mean, it really creates a perfect storm for domestic violence. And our shelter calls are increasing tremendously. And throughout the state of Texas, the Texas Council on Family Violence has reported there’s anywhere from a 40 to 70 percent uptick in domestic violence reports. Most domestic violence situations don’t even go reported, so these are the ones that actually get reported throughout the state of Texas. So it’s a it’s a pretty dangerous and untenable situation for everybody.
MB: Do you still have space still at your facilities? Are you seeing people fill up shelters pretty quickly?
LAG: We do on occasion have space, although we’re having to be very careful. Just to be preventative (although we’ve not seen the virus in our shelters), we have set aside two rooms in the event that something happens when we do have to quarantine women or their children. We have people rotate in and out sometimes after being at the shelter for a few days. Sometimes, they’ve found an alternative living source that’s not a dangerous place and they will move out. It’s always a bit of a puzzle piece to get to make sure we can get everybody in and put into appropriate places within the shelter. But right now, our limit is sixty six beds and that’s in the very best of conditions.
We’re full, and we have those children there with us as well. We’re feeding a lot more people all day. Many of our victims have lost their jobs. For those who still have jobs, we offer transportation there. But we do provide food, basic services in terms of hygiene, diapers — the things that they need while they’re with us. But we don’t want anyone to hesitate to call us. We want to respond quickly. We do respond quickly. If they’re with a police officer or are in a dangerous situation, we can come and pick them up, bring them to our shelter and then work with them from there to develop a safety plan and hopefully get them out of that situation for as long as we can.
MB: Local institutions are having to create surge plans. Are you in the midst of creating your own surge plan?
LAG: I think we’re we’ve created as much of a surge plan as we’re capable of. We have developed a strategy where we only let our our clients and their children leave right now for an hour a day from the shelter. It’s really to protect everyone else in the shelter from exposure from those who might be sick. So, our surge plan is going to be limited when you only have 66 beds. But right now, we’re fully staffed.
I just have a concern that people out there don’t know that they have a place to turn when this is going on. There’s still hope.
MB: What would your best advice for those in dangerous situations be to stay safe in this situation?
LAG: Well, the best advice really is, especially if children are involved, is to call 9-1-1 and and get out of there. It’s hard for people to do, especially with the financial insecurity that’s occurring for everyone right now. That insecurity may have even create a domestic violence situation where none existed before. If there’s any way they can get out of that situation — call a friend or call someone that you know.
And on the flip side of that, if there are any listeners who know a friend you suspect might be in a violent situation or a dangerous situation, call your friends, check on them, see how they are, and see if they need someplace to go. Because like I said, even with shelter-at-home being in place, if you’re more in danger in your house than you are elsewhere, that’s a choice you have to make. But I would say get away from there… if there are guns in the house, get out of there.
MB: For those who hear that you are full right now and they question whether they should call or not, what do you want those listeners to know?
LAG: I would want them to know that some days were full and some days we’re not. So never hesitate to call. The worst thing they can do, especially those with children, is to stay home and just let that situation worsen, especially during this time. We can help them look for jobs, work on resumes, get things together for them so they know what the next step is. Because that’s the scariest thing for most people, they ask “What do I do? I’m dependent on this person for my livelihood. And yet, I don’t know what’s going to happen the next time they walk in the door.”
We serve every gender, we serve everyone regardless of socio-economic status. It’s all free to clients. So they don’t have to worry about their financial situation, at least for a while while they’re with us. And we can help them out.