SEPTEMBER 25, 2019

Keeping Families Safe

In 2018, an average of 13 of the 18 beds available at the Stephanie House Residential Shelter — the emergency shelter of The Retreat, located in a secret, and therefore safe, place somewhere on the East End — were occupied every night, with children tucked away in a little less than half of them. And, many nights, the shelter is at capacity, according to The Retreat’s Executive Director Loretta Davis.

It’s one of the many stark statistics that the organization has collected to illustrate the fact that domestic violence, sexual abuse and dating violence are crises facing scores of families on the East End. And, based on the number of local hotline calls to The Retreat — a nonprofit that has provided shelter and support services for victims of domestic violence since 1987 — it’s a problem on the rise.

Saying that the mission of The Retreat is essential to the community’s health is an understatement. It is the only nonprofit on the East End solely dedicated to this issue. The Retreat provides critical resources — from shelter, to counseling, advocacy and legal aid — to a population of victims and survivors who likely felt as if they had no way out of potentially lethal relationships. Imagine the relief when they were able to find — or were found by — an organization that understands the trauma of abuse but also can demonstrate that there is hope and a path forward into a healthy, sustainable life.

Housing, of course, remains one of the most challenging issues for those seeking to remove them-selves, and their children, from a home marked by abuse. That abuse can take many forms, and often finances are used as a method of control in destructive relationships. For some victims, Ms. Davis re-ports, leaving a dire situation feels impossible for someone without financial stability or family members they can turn to. On the East End, the cost of living makes that challenge even greater, with afford-able places to live few and far between, and nearly impossible to find in the midst of a crisis.

Earlier this month, it was announced that The Re-treat has once again earned a federal grant to pro-vide transitional housing for its clients in Suffolk and Nassau counties — a grant that will ensure families will have access to rental assistance, child care, transportation, financial literacy education and more, as they move forward on a path toward independence. Funding like this is essential to give survivors the support they need to break free from an abuser in the short term, but also to allow them the tools to truly rebuild.

While The Retreat is based in East Hampton, its reach stretches to the Southampton, Shinnecock territory, Riverhead and Greenport. As a community, supporting the mission of this nonprofit, whether through local government funding, volunteerism, getting involved in its prevention education program, or individual donations, is supporting families that in many cases have nowhere else to turn.

We can show them they are not alone.