Staff members at the Family Sunshine Center know all too well the dangers their clients face daily. The mission of the center, based in Montgomery, aims to end family violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. Considering the circumstances the COVID-19 pandemic has created, concerns for victims are heightened.
“Staying home is in the best interest of most, but in situations like the ones our clients face, it means that victims are at home with their abusers,” said Executive Director Tay Knight. “Many of them could be suffering in silence with no opportunity to pick up a phone.”
Knight encourages victims who find themselves in danger to try to find a way to call 911 and get police assistance. The center provides services in Autauga, Butler, Chilton, Crenshaw, Dallas, Elmore, Lowndes, Montgomery, Perry and Wilcox counties.
The center also has a crisis hotline at 1-334-263-0218 that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Our operators are trained to help. They can provide assistance, including a danger assessment and helping a victim process options. They are there to listen,” Knight said. “The dynamics of these relationships are about power and control. When you’re forced to stay in the home by extenuating circumstances like the one we are in now makes it easy for the abuser to retain control.”
The center is supported by organizations including the Alabama Power Foundation, and financial concerns are another primary focus now. Like other nonprofit organizations have experienced, fundraising events they depend on to meet operating costs have been put on hold, but the needs remain.
“Our programs are continuing, and we are doing our best to meet current clients’ needs. For example, we are still offering counseling and advocacy sessions to clients over the phone,” said Knight.
The shelter is still operating, and staff is working to ensure social distancing guidelines are being met even with limited space. Signs with proper handwashing techniques and safety protocols are posted throughout the shelter to keep residents safe.
Knight said she remains hopeful. “We are fortunate to have a great staff who can keep things going, and I’m thankful. We will continue to do the best we can to help victims.”
To learn more about the Family Sunshine Center or to provide a donation to the center, visit the website.