There are a lot of things I don’t know about my future. I don’t know when I’ll be able to retire. I don’t know if I’ll face a serious health crisis. I don’t know what the holidays will look like for my family and I this year.
There are a lot of things I do know or can pretty much count on in my future. One of those things is where my next meal is coming from. I also know where I will sleep tonight and that I am safe in my home.
That makes me luckier than many people. I say lucky because as much as some want you to believe how well you do in life is based on your work ethic and motivation alone, it takes some luck to wind up in a position of relative security. If nothing else, this pandemic highlighted just how close to the edge of poverty a lot of us live. It put a spotlight on how many of us live with food insecurity and on the verge of homelessness.
Another thing highlighted by the quarantine imposed by the pandemic was how many of us are victims of or know someone who is a victim of domestic violence. Without the access to resources or the relative safety of work or school, men, women and children have been trapped in a stressful situation with their abusers for months, unable to petition for help and unsure of being able to have the basics of food, shelter and care.
We have watched over the past few years as those at the highest levels of power have thought more about themselves than the people they took an oath to serve. We have seen time and again where we have had to do for each other because we couldn’t count on government officials to provide consistent, timely aid.
It has happened so often, for so long, that there is even a phrase for it: Standing in the gap. Being the bridge that allows someone just that small moment of grace to gather themselves and push on.
It is at the intersection of food insecurity and domestic violence where the Family Resource Center stands. Recently I came across my friend Vernon Araujo’s post about the Family Resource Center’s semi-annual Food and Supply Drive. It is being held tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Cost-U-Less at Market Square East. It’s a simple event. Easy enough to support.
The best way would be to donate what they need. All you have to do is go to Cost-U-Less, get a wish list from one of the FRC volunteers and, as you do your regular shopping, pick up a few things on the list. Or, you can give them a monetary donation — either in person or via their website through Venmo or PayPal.
Maybe you can’t get or you don’t have the resources to spare. You can still give your time. They need help getting people involved and donating. You might not be able to stop by, but you can tell someone to stop by and donate. That’s what it means and that’s what it’s going to take for us to make progress. We have to do whatever we can to stand in the gap and help each other over the rough spots.
There are few rougher spots than being trapped in an abusive situation. We have stigmatized the abuser and shamed the abused until there is no room for help where it is needed and could be accepted. I learned from Vernon that 1 in 3 women and 1 in six men have gone through domestic violence. “On an island of 70,000 people that means we know someone who has gone through it,” he said.
Any victim of violent crimes, assault or abuse can come to the Family Resource Center and receive no-cost services. They provide food, help with housing, healthcare, counseling and, if necessary, safe passage off island. “We help people get out of bad situations.”
To do this work, they get grants and donations. However, all of that only goes so far. Twice a year when the storage coffers get low, they have to reach out to the community to replenish. “It is an uncomfortable place for our clients to be to have to ask for help,” Vernon said. “We can’t help without the help of the public.”
Even with help, the staff winds up digging into their own pockets. Demand is increasing and they keep going.
“We are dedicated because we know the stakes,” Vernon said, adding there is one other way to stand in the gap, Vernon suggests. We as citizens can help by demanding more from our elected leaders. With all those who need help there are so few agencies available to help. We need to appeal to them to use their position to make legislation that protects victims of violence.
Most importantly, “lead by example,” Vernon asks. “Don’t just make speeches and then turn a blind eye to those in your ranks or hired to serve who are abusers.”
Vernon also suggests that we adopt the attitude of “protect victims and rehabilitate abusers. When you see an abuser come to services and get changed, it is amazing. I can see the end of the cycle. Seeing their kids see them change is huge.”
After I’m done writing this I am going to go to bed fed, sheltered from the elements and safe with my spouse. That puts me in a better position than too many others in our community. We can’t turn a blind eye. We can’t count on others to do it. We have to do it. Each of us. We have to find a way to help and then get behind it wholeheartedly. Maybe this is that way for you. You may never know who your contributions help but you can definitely know it will help someone.
— Mariel Blake is a Daily News columnist. She can be reached at email@example.com.