BOSTON—Saheli, a non-profit organization that works against domestic violence and supports South Asian families in New England, has received a three-year, $444,000 grant from the state government of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The three-year funding is aimed at helping survivors of sexual and domestic violence.
This grant is the first award issued by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) since the Baker-Polito Administration consolidated domestic violence funding from the Department of Children & Family Services (DCF) with DPH’s funding. The result was the creation of a public health framework around sexual and domestic violence services to aid survivors, with priority given to culturally tailored, geographically accessible programs that incorporate emerging best practices.
Over the three-year period, the state grant will total $102 million to 68 nonprofit organizations to provide emergency shelter, crisis intervention, housing stabilization, and other services to survivors of sexual and domestic violence.
“Saheli is very excited to receive support from the Department of Public Health and the State of Massachusetts,” Saheli President Gouri Banerjee told INDIA New England News. “The funds will allow Saheli to move towards a staff-based model of work and reduce the work traditionally done by volunteers,”
It’s great news and it is the first time in 21-year history of the organization that Saheli has received such a large amount in a grant, Banerjee said.
“After 21 years in service to the South Asian community, Saheli will be able to respond to the growth in need for a compassionate South Asian response to domestic violence and develop new programs to prevent violence against women,” Banerjee said.
Banerjee said the grant will be used to hire two full-time anti-domestic violence advocates and an executive director for Saheli.
“I have to say that Rita Shah (a long-time Saheli volunteer) was the inspiration to write this grant,” Banerjee said. “We are very excited. It is really good news.”
Saheli has completed 21 years of service to a large and rapidly growing South Asian community, with its client base growing 15 percent each year.
Saheli is seeking increased participation from members of the Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Nepali and Sri Lankan communities to work cooperatively to help South Asian families in crisis. Saheli offers financial aid to South Asian women and girls who seek to build skills and education to be employed, and encourages women to join Saheli’s adult literacy classes, support groups, and volunteer opportunities. In 2016, women from Nepal, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh received financial aid from Saheli.
“I am pleased our administration is able to offer these state contract awards to reach high-risk populations and under-served areas dealing with sexual assault and domestic violence,” Governor Charlie Baker said in a statement. “This funding will help ensure that all survivors of abuse in need of help can get it, regardless of where they live.”
DPH has worked with DCF and collaborated with Jane Doe, Inc. to establish a set of guiding principles for applicants, maintaining a focus on the safety of children and families. Some 56 technical review teams spent two months evaluating and scoring nearly 300 funding applications in this year’s highly competitive process; 68 agencies have been chosen to receive three-year contracts.
“These contracts provide for a range of services, from emergency shelter and transitional housing to rape crisis counseling and intimate partner abuse education to support for children exposed to domestic violence and families affected by substance misuse and trauma,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “These services provide a comprehensive strategy to meet the needs of survivors.”
The agencies funded include a mix of existing and new service providers on the cutting-edge of developing innovative approaches to prevention, education, and support services for survivors. As a result of the procurement process:
- Western Massachusetts will see a significant increase in funding to expand services and capacity
- Services for children exposed to domestic violence will be expanded from 10 to 13 providers across the state
- Culturally tailored services for people with disabilities will be developed
- New services addressing the needs of black survivors of domestic and sexual violence, a population traditionally under-served in current sexual and domestic violence programming, will be developed
- Services for the Haitian and South Asian communities will be expanded
In addition, the funding will double the number of attorneys available in the state to represent immigrants who are survivors of sexual and domestic violence from 3 to 6.
“These contracts represent a huge step forward in bringing a public health perspective to the Commonwealth’s work around sexual and domestic violence,’’ said Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, MD, MPH. “Based on our comprehensive review, we are confident these agencies will provide crucial support and services to survivors from populations that are more likely to be victims of sexual and/or domestic violence.’’