Hope Shores Alliance celebrates 40 years

News Photo by Kaitlin Ryan Katy Conklin, excutive director of Hope Shores Alliance, left, stands with Michael Kelly, board tresurer, and board President Esther Hines-Ableidinger during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday for a new Hopes Shores Alliance location in Atlanta.

ALPENA — This October, Hope Shores Alliance is celebrating 40 years of service to survivors of domestic and sexual abuse, an anniversary that coincides with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which is nationally recognized each October.

Hope Shores Executive Director Katy Conklin said she has been working in the field for more than three decades, the last four as head of Hope Shores. She said raising awareness is crucial to help end cycles of abuse.

“It is to bring awareness to the issues surrounding domestic violence and the impact it has on not only the primary survivor, but the secondary survivors, like children, family, friends, loved ones,” Conklin said. “It is to celebrate the survivors and honor those that lost their lives.”

Hope Shores is the largest multi-service agency in the state, and it provides services to primary and secondary survivors of sexual assault, stalking and human trafficking, as well as victims of domestic and dating violence. After a brand-new office opened Thursday in Montmorency County, the agency now reaches five counties in Northeast Michigan, including Alcona, Alpena, Isoco and Presque Isle.

HISTORY OF HELP

Hope Shores’ services date back to 1977, when it started as Shelter Inc. to provide emergency shelter services for survivors of domestic violence in Alpena County.

Before that shelter existed, Conklin said local people opened their homes to survivors of abuse and risked their own lives trying to save those who needed help.

By 1978, Shelter Inc. became a nonprofit organization and received assistance from area legal services, governmental agencies, and community organizations, which allowed it to eventually expand into the five counties it now serves. Esther Hines-Ableidinger, president of the Hope Shores board, said the Trinity Church in Alpena also provided integral assistance to the shelter in its early days.

As the only agency in the region focused on serving sexual assault survivors, the people seeking assistance there grew steadily, and Shelter Inc. realized it would need more funding to cover the unmet needs in the area.

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women awarded Shelter Inc. funding through its Sexual Assault Demonstration Initiative (SADI). The Northeast Michigan shelter was one of only six sites in the nation to receive the opportunity.

That funding allowed Shelter Inc. to better serve the community with multiple services for victims of various types of abuse. The changes were also made possible by the Resource Sharing Project, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, and other partners.

The additional funding and expanded services allowed for a complete overhaul of the organization, and, in April 2016, Shelter Inc. became Hope Shores Alliance.

‘STABILITY IN THEIR LIVES’

Hope Shores provides a wide range of services that are free, voluntary, and confidential to anyone who needs them, regardless of gender, age, economic status or race.

Funded by state and federal grants, as well as local foundations and donations, Hope Shores offers secure safehouses and transitional housing. There are 12-month programs and even two-year programs to help provide financial support and housing.

There are also skill centers at the agency’s Alpena, Montmorency and Oscoda locations to aid survivors in finding jobs.

“Domestic violence impacts the financial status and stability of the families,” Conklin said, “so when they leave, it helps support the family until there is stability in their lives.”

Jen Baker, Hope Shores outreach advocacy coordinator, said the agency will make accommodations to help anyone located in a county that does not have an actual Hope Shores location.

“For those living outside of the area in Alcona and Presque Isle, all of our advocates are mobile,” Baker said. “The advocates can travel to them and help them.”

They also help those in need gain access to computers to look for jobs or anything else they may need.

“The safety of a survivor’s device may be compromised by spyware, and buying a new one isn’t always feasible,” Baker said.

Services have also extended to a wide variety of community training, including elder abuse and an educational course for law enforcement about changing laws on strangulation.

‘DEEPEN OUR UNDERSTANDING’

During the grand opening of the Atlanta location on Thursday, Hines-Ableidinger said there was a stigma about trying to escape domestic violence when the shelter started in the 1970s.

Oftentimes, law enforcement would try to take survivors back to their abusers.

Now, she said, law enforcement works hand-in-hand with Hope Shores to help keep survivors safe.

Since 2012, the agency has tracked data on its services, and it has seen an 1,800-percent increase in sexual assault response team activation. That team helps provide advocacy for victims during sexual assault forensic exams, and Conklin, the Hope Shores executive director, said more survivors are coming forward to report sexual assaults.

“We take this month as an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the issues and lift up and connect with those who work to end violence across the globe,” Conklin said at the Atlanta opening on Thursday. “We also take this month to honor those who have died because of domestic violence.”

Kaitlin Ryan can be reached at kryan@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 989-358-5693.