By Hayley Crandall
Milwaukee County is launching an extension of the “Stay Home, Save Lives” program to include help for those experiencing domestic violence during the “Safer-At-Home” order as incident reports rise. Resources include local organizations and available hotlines, according to the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services during press conference on Tuesday.
“We tell people they are safer at home,” said Mayor Tom Barrett. “But we need to make sure they really are.”
Under its COVID-19 updates and resource page, Milwaukee County has added a section dedicated to the looming question, “What if my home isn’t safe?”
Listed are resources and local hotlines for various Milwaukee organizations dedicated to those experiencing domestic abuse or wish to report violence. One of these hotlines included is the IMPACT 211.
IMPACT 211 connects victims with nonprofit and government agencies providing services in the local area. The hotline can be access through dialing 2-1-1, chatting online with a live specialist, or texting, according to Milwaukee County.
This comes as a response to increase of reports of domestic violence homicides in Milwaukee. Pre-COVID-19, there were 13 domestic violence related homicides, according to Carmen Pitre, CEO of Sojourner Family Peace Center. Last month that jumped to 22 domestic violence homicides, a major jump from last year around this time when only four were reported, according to Pitre.
“We knew pre-COVID we had a state of emergency and we believed during COVID that violence would escalate,” said Pitre.
“That’s why we need to get this message out that services are still available.”
From Jan. 1 to April 1, Milwaukee Police Department have reported an 8% increase in domestic violence, according to Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele. The number of domestic violence reports was 28% higher than that of last April.
“We need to be very clear eyed about the realities of domestic violence and as a government have to do everything we can,” said Abele.
On top of online resources, local shelters are open and still working to help victims, according to Pitre.
Sojourner Truth House and Community Advocate shelter both are running and accepting new intakes. Pitre stressed that if you need shelter, it’s important to reach out to the available hotlines or dial 2-1-1.
They are even urging residents to reach out for help if they are the abuser in the relationship.
“We are here to walk this path with you,” said Pitre.
All resources and organization information can be found at the Milwaukee County website under the “Stay Home MKE” resources. Additional help and tools can be found on the Sojourner Family Peace Center website.