Each year in Sampson County, statistics show that domestic violence is prevalent. Because of a growing need, U Care is continuing to provide for those victims experiencing the ravages of that violence. In the past year, the agency has served 2,608 individual, some of them multiple times.
Pam Gonzalez, executive director of U Care, shared that numbers remain about the same as in past years but the intensity of the domestic violence cases they are seeing has greatly increased.
“Many of the victims that we have coming to us now should have come much earlier,” Gonzalez stressed, “but now due to the economy, they can no longer cope with it by themselves. Their lives have become so bad that they can no longer hang on and maintain as they once did.
The director also notednow it is not just the one person coming in, instead a victim comes with children, grandparents and others that might be living in the home, people whose lives are in danger if they were to remain.
U Care Inc. is a private non-profit agency that serves Sampson County and is located in Clinton. It provides an emergency shelter and preventative outreach services for families experiencing domestic violence and/or sexual assault. It is the only local agency to do so freely and regardless of race, creed, sexual preference, language or income. The agency is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Because of the nature of the agency’s location, (rural area), the staff is cross-trained in order to provide the array of services provided. Even staff members working in the the two “Bee Hive” thrift stores operated by U Care are trained to provide outreach.
The agency’s program is divided into three components — shelter and direct services, outreach advocacy and education, and thrift store outreach.
Last year the agency provided other service,s such as transportation, Spanish translation, prevention education and personal advocacy with helps from the Department of Social Services, housing and other community agencies. U Care assisted over 14,000 times last year with these services. Food was provided for all clients to have three meals a day and snacks which amounted to over 6,134 meals last year. These numbers include outreach families who were spending the day in the shelter because of court or other appointments.
“This does not take into account the 1,367 times we assisted in criminal justice, Exparte, criminal warrants, or court accompaniments. Because we are not attorneys, N.C. Legal Services represents our clients and provides staff training,” shared the director.
A combined total of victims and secondary victims, (children, parents, grandparents, etc.) include 1,679 females and 875 malse. A total of 436 of these males were the direct victims of domestic violence. Of those served, 1,454 were between the ages of 0 and 12; 483 ages 13 to 17; 256 ages 18 through 25; 407 were in the 26 to 40 age group; 143 were ages 41 through 60 and a total of 48 were over 61 years of age.
Racially the numbers served were: White, 928; Black, 980; Hispanic, 570; American Indian, 68. Eight others were listed as other/bi-racial.
In the information provided by Gonzalez, sexual offenders were comprised of 15 relative; 13 acquaintances; three boy/girl friend; and two strangers.
“This is very typical. So often we think that we are safe at home but it is usually someone the victim knows that is the abuser. This is why we are hee, to help those who are caught up in domestic violence and/or sexual abuse and provide an escape for them to get out of danger and save their lives and the lives of their family members. I hope we will continue to be able to provide these services to the citizens of Sampson County,” remarked the director.
U Care also offers support groups twice a day — morning and evening — to accommodate work/school or court appearances.
The trained staff at U Care is comprised of 14 employees; five thrift store (two full time and three part time), nine at the shelter, ( seven full time and two part time).
“Around 95 percent of the staff are survivors of domestic violence, many of whom were displaced homemakers at some point in their lives as well,” said Gonzalez.
The staff is diverse with seven female African-Americans, two male African-Americans, one female American Indian, one female Latino, and three female caucasians.
A total of $356,812.66 was paid in salaries last year.
U Care, in the period from July 2011 through June 2012, received a total income of $792.492.37. They were able to provide the services without exceeding their budget.
“We are very grateful for any funding we receive. We apply for as many grants as we can to help us provide service. United Way of Sampson County, like many agencies, has had to cut their contributions as their funding has been lower than expected, but thankfully they provided $18,000 to us last year. FEMA usually funds us around $5,765 but they have not sent down the funds to the counties yet and that money has to be spent by Sept. 30.,” expressed the director.
“U Care,” she stressed, “is in desperate need of financial assistance so that we may continue to provide services and increase our ability to reach victims amongst the under served populations of this area. If we do not receive additional funding, 24-hour staffing and the ability to satisfy the demand for services will be severely limited, thus discouraging victims to seek assistance and endanger innocent lives,” said Gonzalez.
The U Care Board of Directors meets bimonthly and is comprised of volunteers from the community who reflect the demographics and diversity of the county. The chairwoman this year is Donna Landes.
“We strive to do all we can to provide services to the victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse of our county. Our overall objective is to provide services to these victims through activities such as emergency shelter, live hot-line support, legal advocacy, victim advocacy, referrals to other services, transportation, Spanish translation, education (professional and community), support group, emotional support, counseling, child advocacy, follow-up, transitional service and assistance with material needs such as goof and clothing,” stated Landes.
“I consider serving U Care as a privilege! This role allows me to meet people where they are, embrace them and share the hope that we can all hae through Jesus Christ,” added the chairwoman.