Make A Difference – Safe Futures

November 29, 2021 – Hannah married her husband in her early 20s and relocated with him to southeastern Connecticut from the Midwest. He controlled her every move, isolated her from talking to her family, did not allow her to work or have a bank account. She was too afraid of him to tell anyone. The beatings became more severe during the pandemic. She contacted police who referred her to Safe Futures. With the help of Safe Futures staff, she and her boys have just moved into their own apartment, and she has a temporary driver’s permit.

Read more on The Day.

Meet Sheila Horvitz

NEW LONDON — Fresh out of law school in the late 1970s, Sheila Horvitz began doing pro bono work for domestic violence victims referred to her by an upstart nonprofit known as the Women’s Center. It didn’t take long for Horvitz to recognize the far-reaching impacts of domestic violence. Beyond the physical abuse, victims and their families face an uphill battle reconciling their emotional trauma, struggling against homelessness, and an acute susceptibility to depression, substance abuse, and suicide. Even more jarring, she says, was the utter inadequacy of the broader community’s response.

“When I started practicing law it was really difficult to find anybody who had a handle on domestic violence,” Horvitz says of the era.
That gap in support services is what makes the founding of Safe Futures, created as the Women’s Center of Southeast Connecticut, such an important legacy, and one that Horvitz strives to share. She is collecting newspaper articles documenting the decades-long trajectory of Safe Futures, as well as interviewing organizers and staff from the organization’s early years. This year marks the 45th anniversary of Safe Futures’ founding in 1976 and the history of the organization is a vital thread in the community’s history.

“This is an important issue in our culture,” Horvitz says of domestic violence. “This is not a reading society. This is not a knitting society. This is one of the most important issues in our culture.”

For decades, Horvitz saw the dynamics of domestic violence play themselves out in court, but one experience in 2004 served as a tipping point. On Labor Day that year, Rose Conrad, a client of Horvitz’s, was murdered by her husband. In Conrad’s memory, Horvitz established a memorial fund that, to this day, continues to help victims of domestic violence.

Created by nine women trying to offer a network of support to women in the area, the early years of Safe Futures saw the organization move quickly towards a focus on domestic violence and rape – an emphasis that founding members say was prompted by requests in the community. Within two years the organization developed a 24-hour hotline for women, led discussions on how to navigate the legal system, and offered a support group for women.

“It just blossomed because there were all these other needs that were discovered,” Leslie Pope-Hall, one of the founders, says of the early days.

By 1983 the founders had 13 paid employees and an army of 100 volunteers. Eight years later, in 1991, a transitional housing facility offered nine apartments to domestic violence victims.

“There was a vacuum, frankly,” says co-founder Barbara Greenberg of the need for such services. “There were lots of nonprofits in New London, but they didn’t want to touch these issues. We filled a vacuum. There was just no place to go.”

Today the organization serves over 9,000 people annually and offers a raft of counseling, advocacy, outreach, and housing programs. Chief Executive Officer Katherine Verano is now leading an effort to build the fully integrated Center for Safe Futures that will bring nearly every agency whose work touches on issues of domestic violence under a single roof. Police and prosecutors’ offices, childcare services, counselors, job training programs, and more will share space at the Center for Safe Futures to bolster collaboration and make it easier for victims to access the help they need.

“I’m so pleased that Safe Futures does so much now,” says Linda Vogel, who was one of the first counselors to work at Safe Futures. “It does my heart so good to see you all carrying it forward.”

Safe Futures is a leader both locally and across the state in spurring legislative and grass roots changes that improve the lives of victims and their families, but there is still much to do. As proof of the ongoing need Verano points to the docket in the New London courts where more than a third of the criminal cases heard annually are domestic violence cases.

“I think one of the most important things is how much progress has been made since 1976, even though it’s still not enough,” Horvitz says. “There are still people in the shadows.”

Light the Way Breakfast fundraiser will support victims of domestic violence

June 04, 2021 – Start the day with an act of kindness and join Safe Futures for a virtual breakfast event held in support of domestic violence victims. The Light the Way Breakfast program begins at 8 a.m. June 24 and will be streamed live from the Garde Arts Center in downtown New London. Viewers will be asked to donate and can do so via text, through the group’s website, or by writing a check and sending it in the mail.

Read more on The Day.

Two locals chart similar paths in law enforcement and victim advocacy

May 29, 2021 – Lindsey Michaels, a new, 28-year-old police officer who has long wanted to work in law enforcement, and Kevin Barney, who, as a former cop of 37 years, has long worked in law enforcement, are working each other’s former jobs. Barney holds Michaels’ former job as a regional law enforcement advocate for Safe Futures, an agency devoted to assisting victims of domestic violence.

Read more on The Day.

Domestic violence victims advocates warn about decreased federal funding

April 18, 2021 – Safe Futures of New London Executive Director Katherine Verano has been one of many asking not only for Congress to pass the VOCA Fix Act, but to determine how organizations like hers will be funded years in advance. In some ways, the bill currently in the Senate is a stopgap measure, Verano said.

Read more in The Day.

Leadership 2022 Fundraising for Safe Futures Playground, Gardens

April 5, 2021 – The Leadership Eastern CT Class of 2022 is fundraising to complete its community service project for Safe Futures to construct an outdoor play area with playscape for the children at the Flora O’Neil Apartments and refurbishing the gardens at the Katie Blair House.

Read more on The Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut.

Safe Futures makes this a safer place

March 26, 2021 – Southeastern Connecticut is truly fortunate to have this forward-thinking, action-oriented agency serving the residents of 21 towns in the region. We congratulate Safe Futures on its longevity and urge continued community support for the vital services the agency provides.

Read more on The Day.

A ‘softer landing’ for victims of domestic violence in Eastern Connecticut

March 16, 2021 – Safe Futures Executive Director Katherine Verano reveals the site of the agency’s future Family Justice Center and fills us in on the progress of her dream to provide a place where victims will receive wraparound services.

Listen to this podcast interview on The Day.

CT domestic violence shelters struggling, some seeing ‘more severe abuse’

Oct. 13, 2020 – Katherine Verano is wrestling with an 830 percent increase in costs compared with last year for hoteling victims of domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic.
Read more on The New Haven Register.

As pandemic grinds on, domestic violence shelters grapple with budget gaps and growing needs

October 08, 2020 – Throughout the state, the 18 nonprofits that make up a network of service providers for domestic violence victims are seeing a combined $350,000 gap in their budgets as of Sept. 1, primarily due to increased hotel costs.

Read more on WNPR.

Side bar