Upon leaving an abusive situation, domestic violence survivors often have to immediately find housing, transportation, and childcare. But in Louisiana, there are not enough resources available to help survivors once they leave.
A legislative report found that as of 2020, there were only 16 shelters for domestic violence survivors, for a total of 386 beds. Hagar House, a program by the nonprofit First Grace Community Alliance, is one of the organizations in New Orleans trying to help fill this gap.
The nonprofit will host its annual “Women Performing for Women” fundraiser at The Broadside on Friday, September 30, with a DJ set by Boyfriend, performances by The Lilli Lewis Project and Sula’s Coin-Coin Band, food, a silent auction and more. .
Since 2007, the group has provided transitional housing for women, children, transgender people, and gender nonconforming people. Angela Davis, executive director of First Grace Community Alliance, said Hagar’s home has space for up to four adults and three families, and that people typically live in the home between six months to a year, although there is no limit to how long they can Spends.
Although many of the people who stay in Hagar’s home are survivors of domestic violence, people also come there for other reasons, including not being able to afford rent or needing a place to live after leaving prison.
“Honestly, one of the biggest reasons is that numerically speaking, it’s really hard to live in New Orleans,” Davis said. “The rent is too high. There is a lot of Airbnb, and the wages are not high enough. A lot of people live in Hagar’s house and work 40 hours a week and they don’t numerically correlate with cost and income for some time.”
To live in the house, residents must be alert and willing to live with other people they do not know and who may be different from them.
Sharing a place with others usually presents challenges – people who live in an immigrant’s home have a rough time at first – but sometimes the residents end up making long-lasting friendships.
“I hear stories like two mothers helping each other now with childcare, three or four years after they moved out of Hagar’s house,” Davis said. “I don’t want to color things up. It’s very hard to live with people…but when that community is built, it’s great.”
Hajar house also requires those who work and are able to save 70% of their income. The goal is for residents to save about $3,000 to $5,000 by the time they leave, so that they have a pillow when they move into their own space.
According to Davies, First Grace Community Alliance is also helping former residents obtain their new spot. “When families can get housing, we donate money or things to the church to help furnish their home once they have permanent supportive housing,” she said.
House Hager has a full-time employee who meets with every adult in the home once a week and connects them with outside resources, whether it’s counseling or job training. There are also internships, such as art and yoga.
Chairman Robin Hayes said a short stay at Hagar’s House could be a game-changer. She recalled the joy in the eyes of a resident who was so grateful to have her young children in a safe environment while saving money for the next chapter of her life.
“It was like staying with some of my cousins,” Hayes said, “because she was on good terms with housemates at the time.” She said it was all just a godsend… I can only remember how happy she was to be back on her feet and be independent again.”
The September 30 fundraiser will feature his first dance amongst local dance troupes, including The Pussyfooters and Alter Ego Steppers. Tickets are tiered, with a $50 donation suggested. But Davis said everyone is welcome.
“If the sliding scale is too much, we really want people to join us, so they should reach out to us,” she said. “We want people to be able to come.”
Proceeds will go to Hagar’s home and The Ismail Project, the First Grace program that provides immigration or other legal services to those living in Hagar’s home, as well as to the wider community.
Organizers also hope the fundraising will raise awareness of domestic violence in New Orleans and help people notice the early signs in their lives.
Hayes, a domestic violence survivor, says that people in abusive situations may become more closed off and less communicative. In social settings, the abuser may be tempted to answer questions for them.
“Most people think of domestic violence as the end point, the point at which someone is physically assaulted,” she said. “But domestic violence starts long before that.”