Life is getting brighter every day for local domestic abuse survivors through the growing collaboration between Finding Our Voices and the Knox County Homeless Coalition.
Finding Our Voices disbursed $27,000 this past year in direct assistance to Knox, Waldo, and Lincoln county domestic abuse survivors through the group’s Get Out Stay Out program. “Of this amount,” said Patrisha McLean, founder/director of the statewide and Camden-based grassroots nonprofit, “almost one half benefited clients of the homeless coalition through meaningful collaboration with this beautiful organization’s amazing social workers.”
According to Steph Primm, the executive director of the homeless coalition, on many occasions every family residing in their shelter on Old County Road is fleeing domestic violence.
Twenty-five clients of KCHC in the past year received Finding Our Voices funding that averaged $650. The GOSO funds mostly supplied shelter (short term motel stays, apartment rent, security deposits); transportation (car repairs, registration, insurance, gas cards) and legal fees, toward independence and stability.
The payments to lawyers, according to McLean, push back against the classic tactic of domestic abusers to weaponize the children and courts to try to destroy and punish the victims after they have managed to escape. McLean noted that because financial control is a key factor in trapping women in domestic violence, often the abuser will have the money to hire a lawyer while the victim is expected to represent herself. This provides the abuser with the edge in child custody and visitation issues, as well as issues involving property settlement.
Finding Our Voices also connects domestic abuse survivors to pro bono dental care through its new Finding Our Smiles program.
McLean said at the Knox County Homeless Coalition she especially appreciates being able to quickly reach caseworkers and the chief program officer Molly Feeney for thoughtful discussions on how to best help the survivors who are overwhelmed and sometimes in immediate danger. These discussions reflect the holistic wraparound care provided by the coalition’s social work team.
Primm said, “Human beings and families with children need and deserve safe shelter, food, clothing, transportation and access to basic physical and mental healthcare. And that’s just the start. Real collaboration must involve action — working together to maximize our community resources. Finding Our Voices and the Knox County Homeless Coalition are setting an example by doing just that. “
The two leaders have worked together since 2014, when Primm came on as executive director of the coalition and McLean volunteered to take photo portraits of the clients to erase the stigma and shame by showing the community that homeless men, women, and children are “just like you and me”. This is the principle behind the black and white photo portraits by McLean of 45 Maine domestic abuse survivors aged 18 to 83 on the Finding Our Voices posters which are throughout Camden and Rockland, as well as 80 other towns all across Maine. About half the survivors featured on the posters and bookmarks are from the Midcoast.
McLean launched Finding Our Voices three years ago. “My guiding star on how to run a nonprofit,” she said, “was and is Steph: Her out-of-the-box and creative thinking, her humanity, and a team that is infused with compassion as well as a sense of urgency that reflects the emergency nature of many of the situations. I am beyond happy to now be linking arms, hearts and voices through Finding Our Voices with Steph and my other friends at the KCHC.”
The Finding Our Voices program which includes powerful short films on coercive control and the impact of domestic abuse on children is traveling in October to the York library as well as Skidompha in Damariscotta.
For more information about Finding Our Voices contact McLean at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://findingourvoices.net. For more information about the Knox County Homeless Coalition visit https://www.homehelphope.org.