Day in the Life of an Advocate
Have you ever wondered what a day looks like for an Alexandra House shelter advocate? Or maybe you didn’t… until now! Advocates, whether they work in the shelter or in our Community Programs like our Legal, Youth Services, Healthcare, and Elder Abuse advocates; they are the backbone of intervention efforts to support intimate partner violence victims and end the violence in their lives. And we’re thrilled to give you a glimpse into a ‘day in the life of an advocate’ as told by Hanna, Relief Shelter Advocate.
Hanna first got involved with Alexandra House when a co-worker of hers, who has worked with Alexandra House for over 20 years, recommended that she apply for the Relief Shelter Advocate position. Advocates provide advocacy services and support to survivors of relationship violence, sexual assault or abuse, and their children and elder abuse. One of Hanna’s responsibilities at the shelter is to answer the 24/7 crisis line. She responds to eight to 10 new crisis calls every shift. The calls she receives can range from screening people for shelter, developing individual safety plans, or listening to someone who needs to talk through their situation and learn about their options. She also helps clients who are currently in the shelter by supplying their basic needs, offering emotional support, connecting clients to resources, and more. Hanna also ensures clients have transportation, keeps track of general coming-and-goings at the shelter, assesses clients’ immediate crisis needs and addresses appropriately, ensures clients’ safety and security, and completes necessary documentation. Another responsibility that shelter advocates have, which has increased drastically since the COVID-19 pandemic began, is making sure the shelter is clean and sanitized and disinfect, monitoring clients’ health and safety, and that rooms are prepared for new clients.
Hanna says the COVID-19 pandemic has changed most, if not all, of shelter procedures. She shared that the process of screening people for shelter has become more thorough. Advocates now must ask additional questions about potential clients’ pre-existing conditions, whether they have traveled in the past two weeks, if they have been in contact with someone with COVID-19, etc. Another procedure that has changed is that shelter can no longer allow walk-in clients who need emergency shelter. Instead, people must call to get screened and cannot enter the building until that process is complete. Sanitizing all high traffic areas has significantly increased in frequency, and masks are a requirement in the common areas.
The responsibilities of a shelter advocate are extensive and have become more so since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, these barriers have not stopped Hanna from doing her favorite thing while on the job… joking with clients and making them smile! Hanna loves to connect with clients and lift their spirits, which is just as important as any other responsibility of a shelter advocate.
Hanna wants people to understand that anyone – your neighbor, family, friends – could be someone who needs the services Alexandra House offers. She also believes everyone needs to be educated about domestic and sexual violence. She says, “teach everyone to respect each other’s humanity – and how domestic and sexual violence is a blatant disrespect of another person’s humanity. It objectifies another person to the point where their humanity is disregarded to gratify someone else’s needs.”
One of Hanna’s strongest beliefs about domestic and sexual violence is always listening to others when they are strong enough to open up about what happened to them. She recognizes that domestic and sexual violence is challenging to talk about but must be done to grow past the trauma. The way Hanna conducts herself at the shelter is inspiring; Heidi, Shelter and Supportive Services Coordinator, shared that “Hanna has been an amazing addition to our team! Her care and compassion translate into a super advocate and wonderful co-worker.”
A big thank you to Hanna and all Alexandra House advocates who maintain a safe place to stay and assist clients every step of the way!