In the Spotlight: SAFV – An Epic Tale

Sitkans Against Family Violence started in 1976 as a Crisis Line for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, followed in 1982 by the opening of the first SAFV Shelter on Pioneer Home grounds. The former “nurses' quarters” could shelter up to 15 women and children.

Sitkans Against Family Violence started in 1976 as a Crisis Line for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, followed in 1982 by the opening of the first SAFV Shelter on Pioneer Home grounds. The former “nurses’ quarters” could shelter up to 15 women and children.

Today, the non-profit offers temporary shelter and ”empowerment-based safety and advocacy services for survivors of domestic and sexual violence” and promotes “a community of nonviolence and respect.”

Martina Kurzer has worked with SAFV since 2005 and is the current Community Coordinator. She spoke about “what people should know about SAFV in 2023” including the latest development: the shelter is now open to survivors of ALL genders.

“We have always served men,” noted Kurzer. “However, now we can let them live at the shelter as well.” Nowadays, SAFV is proud to serve persons who identify as either gender, or neither.

“The shelter is crowded right now, with 16 residents, including 3 children or youth.” The legal limit is 25 people in residence, although that type of census necessitates a degree of space-sharing that staff would rather avoid.

SAFV is not by definition a “homeless shelter” but, says Kurzer, people who come typically have a history of “complex and lengthy trauma and violence, and finding housing can be a major hurdle. The length of time people need to stay is definitely impacted by the general housing crisis.” When Kurzer first arrived the shelter had a three-month time limit. Now, there is no time limit. “As long as is needed,” says Kurzer gracefully.

Contemplating December, Kurzer admits, “We know that for some the holidays can be a dreadful, stressful, unbearable time that clearly affects family dynamics. People need to realize that not everyone is enchanted by the holiday season.” Some families “keep it together till after the holidays and then blow up.”

“An advocate is always on duty to answer the phone. You do not have to be “in crisis” to contact us. We are here to listen anytime. We offer that service year-round.” Call (907) 747-3370. And (800) 478-6511 is a toll-free number for anywhere in Alaska. Special focus communities are Angoon, Kake and Port Alexander.

Prevention efforts include the “Girls on the Run” and “Boys Run I toowú klatseen” programs. The latter is a 10-week program with running and culturally based activities for 3rd to 5th graders, to strengthen self and community. Their annual celebratory 5K is December 9th. Prevention also has leadership classes for Middle and High Schoolers.

“Talk about SAFV,” urged Amanda Martin, as she helped to plan the December Soup. Martin (of Sitka ACE Hardware) and Kurzer both recall a relationship between the store and SAFV going back over a decade.

Typically, Sitka ACE donates wrappings and gifts for shelter clients and their kids. But one especially “big help” happened during the shelter’s 2019 remodel, when Sitka’s “everything store” donated many, many plastic storage totes. Each organization donates what they can, what is appropriate for them – SeaMart/Hames, for example, usually donates food.

SAFV also accepts donations of food from individuals. The shelter has not one but two pantries of food to give away. As an “auxiliary food pantry” they also receive USDA food supplies through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), a federal program coordinated by the State of Alaska.

“Help us keep those shelves filled with canned goods and ready-to-go meals,” says Kurzer. “Call to make donations or if you need food. If you call requesting food, we will ask, ‘How many people are there in your household? And are there any allergies?’”

Learn more by visiting SAFV.org or call (907) 747-3370.

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