What evidence do you have that there is need forthis crisis housing? How prevalent is domestic violence in Orange County?

The Safe Homes housing concept was born out of research done by a team from the UNC School of Social Work led by Professor Rebecca Macy (https://tinyurl.com/ocdvnareport).This research documented the status of domestic violence in Orange County and the seriousgaps in services, most particularly a complete lack of crisis housing. Macy’s research found that

  • Statewide, approximately 44% of women and 19% of men experience rape, physical violence or stalking by a current or former intimate partner at some point in their lives.
  • Domestic violence happens across all social boundaries regardless of economic status, education, age, gender or geographic location.
  • Nationally, one in four women experience domestic violence each year, and most women murdered in the U.S. are killed by current or former intimate partners.
Orange County’s Domestic Violence Statistics further drive home the need:
  • 1,399 domestic violence victims were served by Compass Center in 2018-2019 (an 18% increase over the previous year) and 253 of these victims (a 16% increase over the previous year) requested emergency housing. CC was able to place only 15 adults and 5 children locally for brief hotel stays. In addition to those who contacted Compass Center:
  • 1,236 people — nearly 94% of the 1,319 clients served by the Orange County Sheriff’s Special Victims Unit in 2019 — were victims of domestic violence, and . . .
  • 570 domestic violence cases were recorded by the Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough and UNC Campus police departments in 2018 (latest available statistics). This total does not include separately recorded incidences of stalking and rape.

  • In 2012 a mother of two was shot and killed by her estranged husband while picking up their children outside the elementary school they attended in Chapel Hill. Last fall, a woman was killed outside her home in northern Orange County by a former intimate partner who was under a restraining order. Two months later in Durham, an employee of UNC Family Medicine was killed outside her workplace by a former intimate partner also under a protective order. In early 2020, a man killed his wife, 5 other members of his family and then himself inside their Chatham County home.
  • In March, during the early stages of North Carolina’s COVID-19 pandemic stay-at-home orders, requests for emergency housing increased by 116% over the same month last year. Requests for Domestic Violence Protective Orders doubled.

Why is Compass Center taking a lead role in creating crisis housing for domestic violence issues in the county?

Compass Center (CC) has a long history of assisting survivors of domestic abuse and is currently designated by the state as Orange County’s primary domestic violence service provider. All six public law enforcement agencies in Orange County, and UNC Hospital’s Beacon Program, refer domestic violence victims to Compass Center for services and housing. No other organization serves this purpose. For more detail on Compass Center’s mission and history, visit compassctr.org/about

Orange County does not have a shelter for DV victims? What about Homestart?

Orange County has not had a DV shelter for more than 30 years. Homestart is a homeless shelter requiring an application process and is not available on an emergency basis. Homestart is only available for women and its location is public, so it would not be safe for many DV cases.

Where are the closest traditional DV shelters? Do they have space when we call?

Durham, Alamance, Person, and Wake Counties have shelters. Chatham County’s DV shelter closed in 2018. Our region’s shelters tend to be small and are frequently full, so clients are being sent farther and farther out into more rural counties with fewer transportation and employment options. When victims must be sheltered outside of Orange County they are often far from their place of employment, have less access to family and friends or other supports, and children may be pulled from the stability of their school.

What are people in Orange County who need crisis housing doing now?

Compass Center has been able to place some people in hotels for 1-2 nights when rooms are available, some turn to friends or family, but many decide to stay with their abusers because their only other option is homelessness. Sometimes we are able to find a bed in a neighboring county’s shelter, but this is not consistent. Some victims may also decide not to go to a shelter that is counties away and in a place that is unfamiliar to them.

Where else is this scattered housing model being used? How does it work?

Professor Macy’s research surveyed crisis housing models used across the state and nation, ultimately determining that a “scattered housing” model based on leased apartments was most effective in providing survivors with the safety, flexibility, services and time needed to transition to a stable and secure living situation. Two excellent examples are in Ashe County, NC, and in Washington State. They have both been in existence for years with successful results. Leasing apartments in scattered locations provides better opportunities for survivors to stay close to their jobs, friends and children’s schools. Our goal with Safe Homes is to lease three to six local apartments in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough and rural Orange County. Unlike traditional shelters, our apartments will be able to accommodate families of varying sizes, children of all ages, and household pets. Safety increases because there is not one well-known location that enables abusers to easily find survivors. With this model, we also have the flexibility to relocate if a location is compromised.

How will the money raised by the Safe Homes, New Lives campaign be used, and why are you raising enough to cover 3 years of operation?

Our $675,000 goal includes the operation of three fully supported apartments, food, transportation, case management and self-sufficiency support services for three years. This budget also includes one-time start-up expenses and some capacity building needed by Compass Center to incorporate the new program into the organization. Our $1,125,000 “Dream” goal provides support for an additional three units and a second case manager for three years. We estimate one case manager will be able to manage three apartments at a time. Having funding for three years will enable staff to test and adjust the program as needed for maximum success and allow the organization time and resources to build its financial strength to sustain the program after the first three years. We have also been receiving in-kind donations for some elements of the program including donated rental units, furnishings and services, all of which will help to reduce the costs of sustaining this program into the future.

Sounds like we need 10 apartments and not just 3 or 6. How is that number set?

We do need more than 3, but this is a good starting point. Anticipating that a number of survivors will stay less than the full 60 days, we expect that 3 units will be able serve up to 150 survivors and children each year. Every dollar we raise beyond our initial goal of $675,000 and toward our “dream goal” will help to bring more units on board and serve more survivors.

How long will people stay in crisis housing? And what happens after that?

The intent is for the crisis housing to be used for a few days or weeks up to a potential maximum stay of 60 days. A case worker will help clients to find the best solution beyond that time, which could be a plan to move in with family or renting their own apartment. Some clients may transition into our existing long-term housing program. In this program we assist clients with renting an apartment with micro-grants that can generally pay for up to 4 months of expenses, continued case management services and counseling, and help connecting to other community service providers. (Visit compassctr.org for more details.)

Why is it better to rent apartments instead of own them?

From a fiscal standpoint, renting provides greatest flexibility to CC in several respects and allows us to focus on our primary mission rather than property management. As we weather fluctuations in the economy and in survivor need, we can add or subtract apartments. Being able to change locations can help protect the confidentiality of the location and help us serve more parts of the county, both urban and rural, keeping survivors closer to jobs, schools and their personal support networks.

Why is it better to rent apartments rather than have a single dedicated building?

Apartments allow for greater access since our clients come from all over Orange County and a building would only offer one location. Apartments provide victims with greater privacy and can be more secure because the address will not be known and locations can be changed if needed for security reasons. This system also avoids many issues that are problematic in single shelters, such as how to accommodate pets, teenage boys, and male victims. Additionally, research shows that group living can be retraumatizing for DV victims.

What costs besides rent are included for the apartments in the emergency housing program?

In addition to the basic monthly rent and utility and internet fees for each apartment, we cover the one-time start-up costs for furnishings, security deposit and security technology. Through the year, we also cover costs to replace bedding and supplies, cleaning/repairs between client stays, and the costs of supporting survivors while they are in crisis housing with food, personal care supplies and transportation. We estimate it will cost between $25,000 to $30,000 to set up and fully operate an apartment for one year (not including case management services). The budget also includes the case manager who is assisting clients in emergency housing.

Will this be safe for residents?

We believe the apartment model is the safest way for us to provide crisis housing to clients. We will evaluate safety concerns when we are choosing apartments. Residents will have the same great access to law enforcement that we all have. While the location of the units will not be made public, they will be known to law enforcement. We have also had people offer to contribute portable security systems including doorbells with video capability.

How will the important wrap-around services that Compass Center is known for be delivered to people living in these apartments?

All survivors who are placed in crisis housing will work with a case manager to get support addressing immediate concerns and planning next steps. Every three apartments will be served one case manager whose job is to empower clients with information and advocacy, and to support them in becoming self-sufficient. They will be connected to Compass Center’s career, financial, legal, and support group services, and staff can also help connect them to other area resources.

Will property owners be willing to rent to Compass Center?

The “master lease” concept is not new to property managers. We have had preliminary talks with a leasing agent who has presented the idea to property owners with positive results. Also, our current experience with our long-term housing program has built positive relationships with many property owners/managers. They know and trust Compass Center. We have one property owner who has already committed to providing a unit rent-free for this program.

What do local law enforcement officials think of this plan?

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the police departments in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough and at UNC are all solidly in favor of the scattered approach to crisis housing. Sheriff Charles Blackwood has called this a “game changer” for Orange County.

How can faith communities and civic organizations get involved?

There are so many ways: sponsor an apartment for a year, pay for a week or month’s rent, offer to provide sheets/towels/bedding, purchase food and supplies or provide food or gas gift cards. To learn more about how your organization can get involved, contact Valerie Sauer, Director of Community Education, at education@compassctr.org.

How will we know this is a success? What are the markers/measures you will use?

That we have full beds. That crisis clients are transitioning successfully to permanent, safe, sustainable situations. The success of the program will be evaluated regularly to ensure that it is providing the expected benefits to DV victims and to address any aspects that need modification to improve outcomes for clients.

What role will local town and county government play in supporting this initiative?

We are exploring those options right now. The towns of Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough as well as Orange County government all have extensive affordable housing initiatives. We are in dialogue with officials as to how DV victims and crisis housing can be included in those programs.

When will this program begin?

As funding allows. Based on the funding received so far, we plan to bring on a new case manager for the program by August and our hope is to make our first apartment(s) available by October 2020.

Are there ways other than writing a check that I can contribute to the campaign goal?

Yes! Gifts to Safe Homes can be made in a variety of ways, all tax-deductible to the extent allowable by law and pledges made may be paid over up to 3 years. Ashley Ahlers, Director of Development, is available to help answer any questions at 919-968-4610 or development@compassctr.org. Check or Credit Card: Complete a gift commitment form and mail it with your check to Ashley Ahlers at Compass Center, P.O. Box 1057, Chapel Hill, NC 27514. Credit card gifts to Safe Homes may also be made via Compass Center’s secure giving page. Appreciated Stock or Securities: You may give stock—both publicly and privately owned—or bonds to Compass Center. If your securities have appreciated since you first bought them and you have owned them for more than a year, your gift may be made with substantial tax savings as opposed to cash. To obtain transfer information, please contact Ashley Ahlers at the phone number or email address above. Donor-Advised Funds: If you have a donor-advised fund with a community foundation or investment firm, you may direct a gift distribution to the Safe Homes campaign. Compass Center is eligible to receive gift distributions from most donor-advised funds. Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) from your IRA: Beginning at age 70½ you are allowed to make a gift of up to $100,000 each year directly from your IRA to a qualified charity like Compass Center. You cannot deduct it as a charitable contribution, but you also don’t count it as ordinary income, enabling a larger gift to be made without being subject to income tax. The gift counts toward your annual required minimum distribution.
Donation of or reduced rent for a qualified rental unit and donation of services: real estate property holders may donate the use of an apartment rental unit that fits the needs of the Safe Homes program. Donations of services to assist with upkeep and repair, among others, are also welcomed by Safe Homes.

Helping victims of domestic violence is critically important, but does Compass Center also offer counseling and training on ways to prevent the violence from occurring in the first place?

Compass Center has a Director of Education whose primary focus is prevention work. As part of her duties she offers "Breaking the Silence" (basically DV101) trainings for community members, and 2-day “Start Strong” trainings for teens that has DV prevention as the focus. Prevention work is something Compass Center takes very seriously and has the capacity to do. We are also interested in providing more education and prevention outreach to other community organizations, including churches and synagogues.

Where can I find more information on domestic violence?

In addition to information on the Compass Center website, other references and recent articles on domestic violence include: New York Times: “ For Abused Women, a Pandemic Lockdown Holds Dangers of Its Own March 24, 2020 NC Policy Watch: “ COVID-19 crisis spawns another dangerous epidemic in NC: A spike in domestic violence,” Joe Killian, April 30, 2020 Orange County Domestic Violence Needs Assessment (2019) by Professor Rebecca Macy, UNC School of Social Work


Compass Center for Women and Families | 210 Henderson Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27514 | 919-968-4610 

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