Victims of Domestic Violence Face Loss in Wake of North Bay Fires

Social workers at the Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse program, NEWS, in Napa are no strangers to helping people during times of extreme crisis and trauma. But the recent wildfires in the area added an extra layer of challenges to help their clients through.

Shea Hunter, Program Director, NEWS, Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Services

Our clients are already experiencing crisis and trauma in their lives, they’re at a heightened level of insecurities and fear, so when the fires took place it just added to their already existing stress and that was just an emotional component that was multiplied.

About 100 NEWS clients were immediately and personally impacted by the fires.

Michelle Sanchez, Housing & Self-Sufficiency Program Assistant to client:

And how many children do you have?

Shea Hunter, Program Director, NEWS, Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Services

Most of our clients are low to no income families, usually a single head of household one parent, and an average of 3-4 children, they are already living paycheck to paycheck. They might work in the hotel industry or the wine industry; they may work in the fields, just the hospitality industry in general. All of those were affected by the fires, they were halted.

Michelle Sanchez, Housing & Self-Sufficiency Program Assistant to client:

Where are you currently working?

Shea Hunter, Program Director, NEWS, Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Services

What NEWS was able to do thanks to a donation by the Vintners Association, through community foundation, was to distribute immediate financial assistance to those families.

Michelle Sanchez, Housing & Self-Sufficiency Program Assistant to client:

For you to be able access those funds, basically what I would have you do is bring me some copies of bills you have been late paying or haven’t paid.

Michelle Sanchez, Housing & Self-Sufficiency Program Assistant

I’ve seen families and clients loose work and lose their income and really struggled to pay their bills.

Shea Hunter, Program Director, NEWS, Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Services

But also many of our families are already living with friends and family outside of their home because they had to flee their homes due to violence, it just uprooted them once again.

Michelle Sanchez, Housing & Self-Sufficiency Program Assistant

If outside stressors are coming in, it just makes a situation that much more intense and the likelihood of violence happening goes up.

I have a client in mind that completely lost her income and it caused for a lot of stress in the home and it ended up being the reason why a couple weeks around the fire, she actually left the situation.

The fires from this location were just across town and over the mountain and you were able to see the smoke, that’s scary and pretty nerve wracking

Shea Hunter, Program Director, NEWS, Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Services

It also made ongoing court cases difficult, for example if someone had a court case coming up or a trial pending or an active trial going due to the fact they weren’t living in Napa and because they had to relocate out of county.

Being able to utilize our skills at NEWS as many as our sister and brother agencies of trauma support, was a privilege and were happy to do that and we are still working with some families now that are having longer term issues”

Michelle Sanchez, Housing & Self-Sufficiency Program Assistant

We have those skills to be able to listen and problem solve and deescalate someone, so I think we are perfect people to be around for a crisis.

Shea Hunter, Program Director, NEWS, Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Services

I would say Napa has been an amazing example of what it means to be behind each other during a time of great need and tragedy.

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