In SWPA, domestic violence services available during holidays, pandemic. Where to find them | Helping the Helpers

By: - December 6, 2020 6:30 am

(Uniontown Herald-Standard photo)

By Mike Jones

BROWNSVILLE, Pa. — The holidays can be a difficult time for some families, even without a global pandemic and economic recession added to the mix.

(Capital-Star file)

So workers at Southwestern Pennsylvania Domestic Violence Services want people to know they’re still there for them, whether they need counselors to speak to or a safe place to stay overnight.

“We just want people to know we are here and we are available to anyone facing an abusive situation,” agency spokeswoman Leslie Orbin said. “With COVID and added stress and so much uncertainty … we certainly know people are under tremendous amounts of stress, and that can cause problems even in healthy relationships. We are here and available for anyone facing a situation, we can help them.”

One of the biggest ways is through the agency’s 24/7 hotline with trained counselors that are confidential. Orbin said they had a “tremendous” number of calls to the hotline during the pandemic, which can be reached by calling 800-791-4000.

“We’ve kind of seen a mix, going back to people being isolated,” Orbin said. “More people reaching out.”

  • IF YOU WANT TO HELP: A fundraising campaign launched on Dec. 1 can be found online at under the “donate now” icon. Check and gift cards can be mailed to the administrative office at 371 Lowhill Road, Brownsville, Pa., 15417. More information about the agency’s needs and holiday “wish list” gifts can be found by calling the donation coordinator hotline at 724-208-5529.

While the agency has “safe houses” in Washington and Uniontown for victims of abuse and their children, they have not been needed as much as they have in the past. Orbin suspects that people are “reluctant to leave their home” due to the virus with the hopes of their situation improving.

“Hunker down and get through this,” Orbin said of that mindset.

That’s why the hotline has been so important.

“They still rely on support from counselor advocates,” she said.

People who want to support the agency during the holiday season can do so by donating money or gift cards, Orbin said. Gift cards to big box stores or gas stations can help someone who is living in temporary housing.

“When people come into the safe house, they’re coming quickly. They may not have had time to pack or gather all of the necessary things to stay, person items, if they’re bringing kids, they might not have had a lot of time to pack,” Orbin said. “It’s helpful to have those types of resources on hand. If they have a need for something, we can provide that for them and they can have the items that they need.”

Two of the agency’s largest fundraisers of the year – the Peace Walk in September and Peace Begins at Home dinner in the fall – had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. A raffle basket fundraiser during Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, helped raise money, but not nearly as much as the other two events do in a typical year. So Orbin said they still need donations for various programs.

The agency offers support to people in Fayette, Greene and Washington counties.

Mike Jones is a reporter for the Uniontown Herald-Standard, a publishing partner of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this story is being simultaneously published. Email him at [email protected].

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