We are surveying domestic violence providers as the next stage of our ongoing project about domestic violence in immigrant communities.
We’ve sent emails with our 10-question survey to more than 40 of the 62 listed providers twice and have started to make calls to individual agencies.
We’ve also gone to the websites of all of the sites we could find to take a look at the social media presence.
Thus far we’ve heard back from or spoken with seven agencies and with Vickie Smith, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
We know that this is neither a representative nor exhaustive sample, and here are the major points of what we’ve learned:
I. Times are hard for many providers.
Three of the agencies we heard from listed funding as one of their major challenges.
“Our biggest challenge is struggling to meet the community need without adequate resources,” wrote Kathleen Higgins, executive director of Rainbow House, a domestic violence agency in the Little Village neighborhood.
“Our biggest challenges are probably funding – well, it is funding,” echoed Michelle Meyer, executive director of Mutual Ground, Inc., an agency that provides domestic violence services in Southern Kane, Kendall, and the Aurora portion of Will and DuPage counties. “A large part of our budget is state and federal grants which has created problems funding-wise, so we’ve been trying to work to become less dependent on the state of Illinois and the federal government. “
II. There’s more bilingual activity in the agencies than on their websites.
Just five of the 61 agencies have fully bilingual websites, and another four have additional pages, hotlines or documents in Spanish.
But all of the agencies we’ve communicated with said they have pamphlets or materials in other languages, primarily Spanish and some Polish, and five of the seven agencies have bilingual staff. This includes staff at the Chicago Hearing Society who speak Spanish and sign language.
III. Few agencies tally the number of immigrants they serve.
Four of the providers with whom we spoke said that they count the number of people served by race and ethnicity, but just one of the seven agencies, Rainbow House, said it counts the number of immigrants served.
“Our funding sources require us to track information on who our clients are,” wrote Higgins of Rainbow House. “More than 96% of our clients are Latino. Approximately 70% of our adult clients are monolingual – Spanish only, and approximately 35% of our clients are undocumented. Although we don’t keep official track, I would say that of the remaining 65% of clients who are documented most of them are first generation American or new immigrants.”
Smith of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence said this information is not collected because funding sources do not request it.
“My gut reaction is that’s not what the funders ask for,” Smith said.
IV. There is a strong commitment to community outreach, but little of it is specifically directed at immigrant communities.
Each of the seven agencies we spoke with talked about the importance of community outreach as a way to find out about and meet clients’ needs.
Ines Kutlesa, chief executive officer of Guardian Angel Community Services, a multi-service agency in Joliet, said her organization has more than 100 agreements with different community groups and government agencies.
Higgins of Rainbow House said her group is part of the Little Village Violence Prevention Collaborative – made up of more than 20 Little Village social service agencies.
“ Together we work to share and maximize our community resources,” she wrote.
Other agencies work with churches and groups that have ties to immigrant communities.
“We have a priest who does work with the Spanish-speaking population,” said Frier of Quanada.
She added that there were volunteers who spoke Spanish, but they moved out of town. As a result, immigrant outreach has not yet happened.
“It’s a dream of ours,” Frier said.
V. Social media is not yet a strong area for many providers.
Less than half of the agencies on the DHS list of 61 agencies had Facebook pages, eight had Twitter accounts and just two had blogs.
But rather than being forums for conversation, these spaces tend to be vehicles for organizational promotion.
“We’re old-fashioned social service providers,” said Smith of the Illinois coalition.
VI. Providers reported having a statewide network, and there are immigrant communities whose needs are not being met.
Several providers said they have received materials in languages other than English from the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Frier of Quanada said her agency can call the hotline in Chicago if they need an interpreter.
But others pointed out that there are immigrant communities that do not have an organization dedicated to them.
There are a number of Latino organizations, a Polish Association and organizations that support the Arab-American, South Asian and Korean communities, according to Smith.
But there is no group that focuses specifically on the issue of survivors of domestic violence from Africa or the Pacific Rim, she said.
We’ll continue to contact agencies and to share what we learn.
We also welcome input from you.
Gregory Pratt contributed to this report.
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