So.. I think I mentioned that I discovered Houston County Women’s Resources yesterday while perusing the annual United Way giving campaign materials. And I think I also mentioned that I emailed them asking about volunteer ops. I didn’t mention, because I didn’t know for sure I could go until just before I left, that they got back to me and invited me to attend a training/orientation session last night for new and potential board members. So from about five until about eight last night I learned all about HCWR. They’re rather amazing in what they manage to do with the budget they have and just *5* full time-staff.
By way of background, Houston County is predominantly rural – we live in the county seat (pop. around 3,000), which is one of only five incorporated cities in the county. Houston County neighbors both Wisconsin and Iowa, and is just across the river from La Crosse – the largest, closest city – and about an hour to an hour and a half from Rochester, MN. There’s not much down here to begin with, so to find such a thriving and active and successful women’s rights advocacy agency was a little surprising in all honesty.
HCWR operates a 24-hour crisis line, they provide services (counseling, groups, emergency financial support, etc.) for victims of sexual assault, they provide services for children who are sexually assaulted and/or from violent homes, they provide services for battered women and victims and survivors of domestic violence. They run a transitional housing program with 7 apartments available for up to 24 months to homeless women and their children. They provide trained supervisors for child visitation and exchanges that are court-mandated to be supervised. They run a Safe House program that provides temporary housing to women and children fleeing violent homes. Did I mention there are only *FIVE* full-time staff?
So, to make an already long story less likely to be longer, I submitted an application via email last night to serve on their board of directors. This is.. perfect for where I am. A few years ago.. okay, several years ago… while living in Seattle, I was active with domestic violence crisis intervention and advocacy. One of the studies I worked on in my master’s program was to pilot a computerized social services screening questionnaire for use in hospital emergency rooms as a tool for initiating conversations between medical staff (and hospital social services staff) and patients about psychosocial issues that may be impacting the patient’s life. Domestic violence was high on the list of screening topics. I had a fellowship during the summer between my first and second years of graduate school to research low-income access to medical and social services – I focused on the emergency department as, in many cases, the only contact some people have with “the system”. The provision of social services – either directly or by referral – to emergency department patients would, in my opinion, go a long way toward easing some of the burden on crowded emergency rooms, and also likely increase the social capital of the patients, not to mention hopefully get them some concrete assistance to help get them out of poverty.
Hrm.. tangented there a bit. Oh well. The upshot, though, is that since I left grad school three years ago, I haven’t been plugged into any advocacy. And.. it’s been a little disturbing to me. So now, now at a time when I can and am motivated, I’m presented with an opportunity to really serve and help guide an agency that’s doing amazing things. And that’s both exciting and a little scary. *smile*
And then this morning, in reviewing and catching up on a few days of blogs, I find this compliments of Julia. And.. after a night of finally getting hooked back into women’s rights and advocacy for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.. it’s.. truly frightening. And a little bit daunting. And a smidge deflating. *sigh*