In the world of social services, meeting clients “where they’re at,” has long been an accepted best practice.
To be clear, it means finding the clients where they live and finding ways to get needed services directly to them, rather than requiring travel, or meetings or onerous requirements for clients to access them.
This is a practice that Stephanie Husted is thoughtfully extending through the services offered by The Women’s Center, where she has served as Executive Director since January 2019.
Leadership in Non-Profit Sector
It’s a role she is passionate about, and one her experience serves well. With more than 15 years of nonprofit leadership management, as well as work in operations management and organizational transformations, Stephanie was selected to lead the local nonprofit, which provides trauma informed care to victims of domestic and sexual violence.
Her focus is honed on two pillars at the moment, she said: To continue the progression, growth and visibility of the nonprofit and to expand diversity within the client base.
“We need to target areas more impactfully,” so that anyone who needs our services is able to receive them, she said.
To do this, Stephanie and her staff and team of volunteers are going into the underserved communities where domestic and sexual abuse is widely reported, “meeting people where they are at.”
“It’s grassroots outreach that was critical so many years ago (in the identification and delivery of social services), but not so much anymore as trends moved us into offices,” and off the streets, she said. Establishing a consistent presence is key to establishing trust among a population already severely at odds with the concept of trust.
Anyone Can Be a Victim
Through a mix of services which includes outreach, counseling, victim advocacy and transitional housing, the Women’s Center annually assists approximately 6,400 local women, men and children on the Space Coast who have been impacted by the trauma of sexual or domestic violence.
Stephanie wants to make sure awareness is raised about the availability of services, including 24-hour hotlines for
domestic abuse and sexual assault, staffed ‘round the clock by trained employees who can address crisis needs and assist with follow up for appropriate counseling, advocacy and housing needs.
Victim Services through the Pandemic
When the pandemic struck in February, Stephanie and her team anticipated a heightened increase in demand for services. Interestingly, she said, that did not happen.
Though it’s unclear whether abuse was actually more pronounced or not during the shutdown,
“We think the shelter-in-place orders kept the reporting down,” she said.
Now that the shelter in place orders are relaxing a bit, reporting is on the rise.
The organization adopted CDC guidelines and developed online virtual services for victims. It has resonated so well that many now prefer to continue with virtual services, rather than switching back to face-to-face services. “We are glad to have identified and implemented a way to continue our outreach to people in need,” Stephanie said.
More to Do
The Women’s Center supplements its funding—the bulk of which comes from local, state and foundation grants, including money from the Federal Victims of Crime Act—with annual fundraisers that bridge the shortfall needed to continue operations and services.
The North Guild hosts two events annually: Superbowl of Trivia, which raised about $80,000 this year, and the Boots and Bandits event, which is on hold. In Melbourne, Bourbon Cars & Cigars is the big annual event, and “unfortunately on hold until further notice,” Stephanie said.
This year, the lag from these fundraisers is about $150,000, which Stephanie hopes will come from direct donations and profits from the two thrift shops they operate in Melbourne and Titusville.
Community support is what keeps the mission alive. “We are here, and fully operational. We are adjusting to this new normal and continue to provide critical, life-saving services to women, men and children suffering [from abuse],” she said.
For more information, or to donate or volunteer, call (321) 242-3110 or visit online at womenscenter.net.
Shawna Lucas (formerly Kelsch) has lived and worked in Brevard county for the past 20 years, serving in a variety of jobs and community service roles. She’s a former food and news reporter for Florida today, and was owner/operator of a marketing company that assisted clients and partners such as the Florida Healthcare Coalition, Blue Cross & Blue Shield Foundation for Florida, The Brevard Health Alliance, and Florida Tech to identify and solve pressing community health issues. She has she has dual bachelors degrees in Journalism and Sociology from the University of Miami, and was an inaugural fellow at the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN.