By Jennifer Morrison, Shelter Coordinator
It’s Friday afternoon and the call has come in from a woman who was beaten by her partner two nights ago. The police came to the home and arrested her partner, but she has just learned he is being released later this afternoon. She is afraid for her,
her children’s safety, and their lives. She desperately needs to find a safe place where he cannot find them.
She calls one of the hotline numbers provided by the police and learns the shelter is full and cannot help her. She calls the second number and again she learns the shelter is full. With rising panic and desperation she calls a third number. They, too, are full but can place her and her children in a hotel for a few nights until the needed shelter beds become available. It’s the SafeNight App that will help fund the hotel nights.
A typical situation often faced by the domestic violence agencies in Dallas County – The beds are full in the shelter, as are the beds in all the other domestic violence shelters in the county. According to TCFV (Texas Council on Family Violence), on average 39% of those seeking Emergency Shelter are denied due to lack of space. Yet, this woman and her children deserve a safe place to go, because everyone deserves a SafeNight. But, funding hotel nights is an expensive endeavor, and it’s something most domestic violence shelters have not been able to fund until now.
Today, participating agencies serving victims of domestic violence can log into their SafeNight App portal and send out a request for funding for the desperately needed hotel nights. SafeNight allows any community member who has downloaded the app and selected an agency to provide immediate funding for this crisis situation, thus allowing the agency to confidently place the family in a safe hotel and remove them for the imminent danger in their home.
Jennifer has spent nearly 20 years in the Domestic Violence space, most of that time as Executive Director of a Dallas Area shelter. She now works with AdvanceNet Labs to help all of our shelters say “yes” to those 39% of victims who were previously told “we can’t help you”.
I often get asked, “What made you decide to leave the corporate technology world to develop and deploy solutions for the social sector like the SafeNight app? Wouldn’t your life be easier if you took a safer and more financially lucrative path?” The answer is efficiently summed up by my fellow (and in fact the founding) Social Venture Partner – Paul Shoemaker. Paul’s book of the same name would tell you it is my “Can’t Not Do“. For me, our team and our collaborators, it’s a matter of not being able to stand on the sidelines. We know we can do something to bring about large-scale change and unlock our community’s potential to provide hope and empowerment to the hurting and disenfranchised.
We also get to play a role in unlocking other people’s potential as a force for good. We help them, as another Paul (the Apostle) wrote, “to do the good works God has laid out in advance for us to do.” We help Caravan Studios, another nonprofit with amazingly intelligent and compassionate people, bring solutions like SafeNight into communities as a force for good. We help shelters to be able to say “Yes” when someone in crisis calls. We reach well-meaning people who want to make a difference and give them that opportunity – all from their smartphone.
When your SafeNight app pings you and lets you know – “We have an emergency need – a victim and her children are in a violent situation and the shelter cannot take them. Will you pay for a hotel room so they don’t have to try and survive another night of terror?”
Well, for our SafeNight donors, meeting that need for rescue becomes their “Can’t Not Do”.
We are so excited to begin our work with United Way Metro Dallas and their education programming. United Way and their education partners, City Year and the Concilio, will be using our system to perform online assessments, manage classroom activities, and have access to class material via our Learning Management System powered by CornerStone onDemand. The programs will be working with high potential students from challenging backgrounds – providing them professional and college readiness skills including Accenture’s Skills To Succeed programming.
AdvanceNet Labs staff, led by Director – Education & Empowerment Jodi Rothwell has provided a highly customized technology environment and training materials to reduce redundancy, rework, manual data entry and provide a higher quality experience and data visibilty for all program managers and participants. Technical leadership from United Way even partnered with AdvanceNet Labs to provide a “pop up online classroom” with a set of portable computers and networking that can stand up anywhere to meet students’ needs when traditional computer labs are not available.
Concilio representatives, who had administered the program without the technology support in the past already were immediately grateful for the program improvements and significant labor savings the program will provide. We are so excited to work with City Year, United Way and the Concilio on this important program!