Financial independence initiative helps domestic violence survivors in region

YWCA Northcentral Pa.’s Wise Options program will use a $10,000 grant to help steer domestic violence survivors toward financial independence.

The Allstate Foundation and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV) selected Wise Options as one of among four pilot sites for the program that trains victims in any number of areas related to job readiness.

Diane Hake, lead case manager with YWCA’s Liberty House, a transitional shelter for women with children who want to gain self-sufficiency, said it’s an exciting opportunity that will further efforts to help empower victims.

Financial stability is the number one reason that victims stay with an abuser, according to PCADV Executive Director Peg Dierkers.

“Domestic violence is about control,” Hake added.

Statewide, $61,200 is being allocated to PCADV programs.

Wise Options was selected after demonstrating previous success with financial education for victims.

“We are proud of the work we are doing,” said Mae-Ling Kranz, YWCA housing director.

Wise Options deals specifically with victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and other violent crimes. Services include access to PFAs (Protection from Abuse Orders); direct victim services such as counseling and legal advocacy; workshops for students, employers, employees and others; and emergency shelter for survivors.

Kranz said efforts are now under way to partner with local businesses and organizations that can offer opportunities in the way of internships, temporary employment opportunities and on-the-job training.

Among companies which have agreed to become involved are Bimbo Bakeries and Kelly Services.

“We aren’t looking for someone to hand a job to them,” Kranz added.

Victims often lack the skills and tools needed to gain employment, but that doesn’t mean they are not capable of holding jobs.

Kranz and Hake said it’s important to break the cycle of abuse and such programs can steer victims toward that.

“These women have a lot to offer,” Kranz said. “They are resilient.”

For many of the victims it can come down to finding the right opportunities.

Anne McCarty, a resident of Liberty House, said she feels the empowerment skills offered under the program are certainly a step in the right direction.

“It’s a great thing,” she said.

Hake noted that education will cover such areas as resumes, job searches, dressing for success, financial empowerment, and responsible decision making.

“By preparing victims for the workplace and teaching them budgeting and financial planning skills, this initiative gives them the tools they need to obtain employment, save money and start new lives free from abuse,” Dierker said.