Jennifer calls 911 after barricading herself in the bathroom with her two small children. She is hiding there after her husband John threw her against the kitchen wall and put his hands around her throat, strangling her. He is pounding on the door and threatening to kill her. Though their relationship began normally, John became more and more controlling of Jennifer, isolating her from friends and family, restricting her access to money and belittling her. The physical abuse began during her first pregnancy. Though he is often apologetic afterwards, Jennifer fears for her life, and for her children.
The police respond, arrest John, and complete an assessment to determine Jennifer’s risk of homicide. Because of the types of abuse Jennifer has endured, they determine she is at high-risk of homicide by her husband. The police call Community Works and hand Jennifer the phone.
In 2017, law enforcement made 400 of those types of high-risk referrals to Community Works. The assessment tool the police use to assess the risk of homicide is called “Maryland Model of Lethality Assessment.” Developed at Johns’ Hopkins University, this tool assess risk of homicide based on the types of abuse endured. Research shows the most-proven way to reduce the risk of homicide is contact with a trained domestic violence advocate.
Community Works will be on the phone with Jennifer within 10 minutes to help her make a plan for her immediate safety. Her husband, John, will only be in the county jail 9 – 12 hours, so time is of the essence. Jennifer chooses to come to Dunn House shelter with her children and her dog. Through community support via Hearts & Vines, we were able to build a dog run at Dunn House which allows families to flee without leaving their animals in harm’s way. Since abusers often hurt, or threaten to hurt, beloved pets as a form of control the ability to bring a pet along can make a huge difference to a survivor’s ability to leave.
Once at Dunn House – which is at a safe and confidential location – Jennifer is put up in a private room with her two children, where they feel safe for the first time since she can remember. While at Dunn House, Jennifer meets daily with an advocate, learns about the dynamics and cycles of domestic violence, creates an action plan identifying her own strengths, goals and resources, as well as what her needs are and how they might be addressed. She attends support groups with other survivors and her children attend a support group for children who have witnessed violence. Jennifer is able to reconnect with her family and begins her search for a job.
Jennifer is on her way to building a life that is free from violence.
*Photo for illustration purpose only.
At Community Works we are honored to witness homeless youth use the support they receive from the Transitional Living Program (TLP) to change the path of their future.
Janis is a young woman who, at 19 years of age, did just that. She moved to Southern Oregon from Anchorage, Alaska where she grew up with a lot of instability in her life. She and her family moved from place to place. She took advantage of some great opportunities and attended Job Corp, got her High School diploma as well as earning her Office Administration diploma. Janis moved with a friend to our area with dreams of starting a new life. However, the tough housing market made it impossible for her to find stable and affordable housing. Janis found work and was able to stay temporarily with her friend’s family. Young, new in town, without resources or a support system, her temporary housing came to an end and she was couch surfing to keep a roof over her head.
Janis came to Community Works’ Transitional Living Program. Community Works’ TLP is the only such program for homeless teens in Jackson County. It provides safe and stable housing for up to two years while young people finish their education, work, save money, gain life skills and build a different kind of life than they experienced as children. The youth in the Transitional Living Program receive daily support from their case managers, who are supporting and cheering them on every step of the way.
With the support of Community Works’ program and staff, Janis became the proud recipient of one of the thirteen Transitional Living apartments. Janis quickly moved into her new home and made it hers: homey, comfortable and welcoming. As excited as she was to create a home for herself, living alone for the first time brought back old fears of neglect and Janis felt overwhelmed. She knew a therapy dog would provide companionship, comfort and help with her anxiety. In came Frankie! Frankie has given Janis a great deal of support and love, and this relationship has been important for her success.
Thanks to the one-on-one support and life-skills training from Community Works, Janis she has a full-time job at Goodwill. Janis is saving money and learning how to live on a budget. She consistently sets new and bigger goals for herself, wants to learn how to garden, and is prioritizing healthy living and wellness. Janis sees no limit for her future and is a great example of how hope and hard work can have amazing outcomes.
*Photo for illustration purposes only
The beautiful Rogue Valley holds a secret of which many of its residents are unaware: individuals being sold against their will for sex.
Sex trafficking, as it is known, is defined as exploiting a person through fraud, force, or coercion to participate in sex acts for money. This includes any child under the age of 18 involved in any aspect of commercial sex. Sex trafficking is a highly under-reported crime.
Jackson County is a place of particular concern for sex trafficking. Medford is located roughly halfway between San Francisco and Portland on the I-5 corridor. The I-5 freeway is known to traffickers as the “Kiddy Track” because of the high number of children sold along this route.
In addition, there are an estimated 2,000 homeless youth in Southern Oregon, according to Maslow Project. These homeless young people in our community are at great risk for being forced or coerced into sex work. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in three homeless teens will be lured into prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home. Imagine the vulnerability of a young person, on the streets and alone, being approached by a skilled predator.
As a community, we must respond.
Community Works has received a grant for two full-time employees to be dedicated to coordinating and responding to sex trafficking in Jackson County. Community Works will formalize and lead the Jackson County Sex Trafficking Task Force to foster collaboration among law enforcement and community partners to create a coordinated response to victims of sex trafficking. While we know this crime is under-reported, both in the Rogue Valley and beyond, the Task Force will work to increase awareness and data tracking so we can best understand how this issue is experienced here locally.
Community Works will have a dedicated Certified Sex Trafficking Advocate, whose primary job would be to support, empower, and respond to the specific needs of sex trafficking victims. This grant will also provide opportunity for training in the community for agencies and organizations that may come into contact with victims of sex trafficking. Knowing how to recognize the warning signs, and appropriately respond to victims, is crucial in getting victims they help they need and deserve.
We want Jackson County to be known for many things including the natural beauty, the vineyards, and being a great place to call home. Sex trafficking has no place here. Community Works is proud to lead in this crucial community response.
*Photo for illustration purposes only
Imagine being a teenager, balancing schoolwork and friends, wanting to go to college, but unsure of how to get there.
Now, imagine not knowing where your next meal is coming from, not having a safe place to sleep at night, or any adult to help you. This is the high school experience for the young people who join Community Works’ Transitional Living Program. Homeless and on their own, these young people are provided a safe and permanent place to live while they finish their education, work, gain life skills, and get a shot at a different life than they were given as children.
Youth in Community Works’ Transitional Living Program receive daily or weekly support from their case managers. Community Works’ case managers are available to act as a sounding board for decisions, help the youth gain access to community resources, empower them to think about their future. Sometimes, the youth are learning basic skills, like how to cook a simple meal, how to do laundry, or how to clean a bathroom. Sometimes, Community Works helps fulfill a wish for a more “normal” teenage experience, like having something nice to wear for prom.
Last December, one of the teenagers in Community Works’ Transitional Living Program was featured in the Mail Tribune’s “Light One Candle” series. A community member read about how hard she was working to achieve her dreams of going to college and never being homeless again. He was inspired to help her reach her goals. Through her hard work and determination, and his generosity, which was matched through the College Dreams program, this young woman is now a freshman in college!
She isn’t alone in forging a brighter future through education. A quarter of the youth in Community Works’ Transitional Living Program participants celebrated a graduation from high school or university this year, while the rest continue to pursue their education. Many of these young people are parenting small children, in addition to putting themselves through school, living sober, and studying.
Our heartfelt congratulations to all of our Transitional Living Program graduates – your future is bright! We are so proud of you!
*Photo of actual graduate.