Guest columnist Marianne Winters: Reflections on a year of pandemic:

Published: 2/16/2021 3:44:15 PM

As we approach the month of March, we reflect on a year that has been full of grief, loss, change, discovery and resilience.

We have all navigated a new way of living as we continue to grapple with the multiple pandemics our community and country remain entrenched in: the pandemics of COVID, racism, white supremacy and violence.

And through it all, we at Safe Passage have been here for survivors.

March 2020 presented all of us with a host of changes that we could barely imagine even a month prior. At Safe Passage, we work tirelessly to offer hope and healing to survivors of domestic violence and relationship abuse. As always, we knew that to be most helpful to our community, we needed to remain flexible and responsive.

Our swift pivot to remote programming allowed for a smooth transition for existing clients to continue receiving support and for survivors who needed to reach out for services due to elevated safety concerns during quarantine to do so.

Our counseling staff continue to offer high-quality emotional support, safety planning, and resources using innovative approaches to meet increased needs in our new virtual landscape. To prioritize the health and safety of our staff and clients, we made rapid decisions about how our office and shelter would operate, balancing use of the physical sites with limiting exposure to COVID.

And while our community engagement efforts were put on a brief hold as we reoriented ourselves to a newly virtual world, our staff quickly transitioned to online programming. Virtual volunteer, prevention, and outreach training allow members of our community to continue to be a part of our work to end domestic violence and support survivors during this pandemic.

We also re-envisioned our beloved annual fundraising event, the Hot Chocolate Run. Our community showed up for survivors through the Hot Chocolate Challenge with enthusiasm and incredible financial support, despite not being able to be together in person.

In facing the unknown, members of our community and Safe Passage staff have demonstrated unwavering dedication, creativity, and compassion in their efforts to support survivors and further our mission.

While we navigated health and safety concerns, we were also faced with an overdue reckoning with white supremacy in the U.S. At Safe Passage, vulnerable communities have been integral to our work for years. We have demonstrated leadership in our field about who we seek to serve and how we can decrease barriers to safety and support. And we’ve used this critical moment in our country’s history to begin to dive deeper into equity and justice issues.

So much of our work at Safe Passage centers on care and respect for the people we serve, which is extended to our work together as a staff. The generosity, support and trust that we received from our community has allowed us to meet the challenges of the past year — to maintain high-quality services and programs and to care for ourselves and one another through this difficult period.

Since last March, we have learned so much that we never anticipated. We are hopeful that the next year brings us physically back together to continue our collective efforts towards safety, hope and healing.

Marianne Winters is the executive director of Safe Passage.


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