Grant supports shelter for victims of domestic abuse

Sojourner House will use the U.S. Department of Justice grant to improve transitional housing

Contributing Writer
Monday, September 30, 2013

Sojourner House, a nonprofit shelter for victims of domestic abuse, received a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women earlier this month. Sojourner will use the three-year grant to improve transitional housing for victims of domestic abuse and their children.

U.S.  Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., who worked on the recently reauthorized Violence Against Women Act, said he hopes the grant “will help continue these essential services” that the organization provides to the state, according to a Sojourner press release.

Many families enter emergency shelters when first seeking assistance from the center, said Vanessa Volz, executive director of Sojourner House. But transitional housing, one of the organization’s largest programs, offers longer-term help, with individual apartments accommodating those in need for 18 to 24 months.

Families enrolled in the program are also involved in the center’s supportive services, which include an advocacy program and support groups.

Sojourner House was founded by a group of female Brown students in 1976, according to the center’s website. The students were inspired to organize and concentrate their efforts on violence against women when they realized its prevalence and the lack of measures in existence to protect victims of domestic abuse. The center was named after Sojourner Truth, a former slave who later became a prominent abolitionist and fought for the rights of both slaves and other women.

Volz said she remains in contact with Cathy Lewis, the original executive director of Sojourner House, who remains active in Sojourner’s fundraising initiatives. Other than state and federal funding, the organization supports its programs through private fundraising programs such as its annual masquerade ball.

“Sojourner House is one of Rhode Island’s strongest advocates for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking,” said U.S. Rep. David Cicilline ’83, D-R.I., who co-sponsored the Violence Against Women Act, in a press release for the group.

Since its founding, Sojourner House has helped more than 50,000 people through its services, which include programs for LGTBQ individuals that were the first of their kind in Rhode Island. In 1999, Sojourner House founded WomenCARES, the first and only program to offer domestic violence support along with HIV/AIDS prevention. The center, which is open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week, also provides referrals to more than 50 different community affiliates for further support and services.

  • Aida Manduley

    The shelter and its hotline operate 24/7, but the drop-in center is only open 9-5pm Monday through Friday 🙂