Domestic violence survivors facing eviction, Safe Embrace ordered to close by August 15
RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Domestic violence survivors are now facing eviction, after a Washoe County District Court judge ordered the largest emergency shelter in Northern Nevada to close.
Judge David Hardy has ordered the nonprofit to close its safe house by August 15. Safe Embrace (SE) filed for a Special Use Permit (SUP) to make updates to the facility but Hardy denied it.
This started after the city of Sparks approved an expansion of the shelter in 2018.
According to a lawsuit filed a year later, the city admitted the property was wrongly classified as a group home--which suggests a small number of residents-- instead of a social assistance service, welfare, or charitable use. According to court documents, neither of these uses is permissible in the property’s zoning district.
“We’ve been legally licensed since 2001,” said Afshan West, Executive Director of SE. “It was only the expansion request licensing so, I can see revoking that part of it but not the complete shelter.”
However, when a building permit is void, a subsequent certificate of occupancy is similarly void and revocable.
Homeowners in the area claim that since the expansion there have been more issues, including noises from screaming matches, barking, police presence and damaged roads.
Client Judson Parkin told KOLO 8 News Now that these claims are hearsay and life at the safe house is peaceful.
“It’s not a crazy party environment, those are people who want a better life,” he said.
Parkin was married for 15 years and says his relationship kept getting worse.
“Where to start? Physical, emotional, financial, sexual abuse, everything that you… that I would imagine and come to know as a textbook form of abuse,” he said.
When men become victims of domestic violence, they usually find it hard to seek help. For him, the realization came after the violence reached his children.
“It was April 2021 and my wife had basically just assaulted my daughter and that was the final straw. There’s this misconception that essentially because I’m physically able to defend myself that I would.”
Living in Oregon at the time, he went to Project Dove, a nonprofit that helps victims of domestic abuse, where he heard about SE.
“They had encouraged me to reach out,” said Parkin.
After a few weeks, he was admitted to the safe house, where he says his children have made tremendous progress.
“They talk about cooking with people, playing with the other children that were there. Fond memories that probably would not be possible in a typical shelter,” said Parkin.
While no longer at the safe house, he worries about others like him who are now facing eviction. Parkin is part of SE’s Rapid Housing Program and is now living in an apartment with his children.
“Our clients, they’re scared, they’re worried, they don’t know what the future holds,” said West.
West has been reassuring clients they won’t be homeless and that they have support from the community and other organizations like the Domestic Violence Resource Center (DVRC).
Executive Director Kristen Kennedy says closure of the safe house could add pressure to their resources, at a time when they’ve seen an increase in need.
“A couple of weeks ago we had an advocate that was on call and received 52 calls in one weekend,” she said. “Last year alone, Safe Embrace provided 45 hundred bed nights to victim-survivors. So, potentially that could come to us.”
One thing on West’s mind is the ten children currently at the shelter, who she says have been registered at the nearby school.
SE is disappointed with the City of Sparks and Washoe County, as it seems the nonprofit has taken all the punches. They wish another solution could have been achieved as the addition/expansion in dispute was necessary to serve the community.
In the past, the plaintiffs have said they support the shelter’s mission, but just don’t want it in their neighborhood.
The organization will be meeting with its lawyer on Monday to plan the next steps. While they continue to provide services, they have stopped accepting new clients to their shelter.
KOLO 8 News Now reached out to the homeowners’ lawyer, but at the time of this publication it hasn’t gotten a response.
DVRC is ready to help and asks those in need to call their 24-hour hotline at (775) 329-4150 or text DV HELP or DV SAFE to 839863.
Safe Embrace is asking community members to submit a statement in support of the organization and email it to email@example.com.
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