NEW ORLEANS — More families are suffering from domestic violence since the pandemic.
So, the need for a crisis shelter, and many long-term services, have increased. Now, a local organization is answering that need. It’s a dream that was years in the making. And now almost two decades after Hurricane Katrina, it’s finally come true. The New Orleans Family Justice Center opened a new shelter for victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, and sexual assault. In Mary Claire’s Place, there are more rooms, where families in crisis now heal in their own space, with complete privacy.
“This is at the crux of our problem in our country, and in our community. You know, it’s a right that people should feel safe in their own home,” said Mary Claire Landry, Executive Director of The New Orleans Family Justice Center. The new shelter is named after Landry. She was instrumental in creating a network of partnerships with law enforcement, the legal system, long-term housing assistance, counseling, and medical care for clients.
“Survivors, and their families get killed when they’re in the cracks, and people aren’t sharing information. So, this model is so incredibly important,” she said. NOPD, and the sheriff’s office, are part of the network. “We have a large number of people who are in our vulnerable population, who have been victims of domestic violence, and human trafficking, who need that wrap-around service to begin again, to start their life over,” said New Orleans Police Superintendent Michelle Woodfork. “We don’t want victims, or survivors, to fall through the cracks. We want to make sure that we’re handling it right from the start to finish.” said Orleans Parish Sheriff Susan Hutson.
“One night he wrapped his hands around my neck, and choked me, and I called 211,” said domestic violence survivor, Stacy Knox. She is now is an advocate for survivors. She doesn’t know where she and her young child would be today, if she didn’t have shelter in the past. “And now I’m able to help other women and give them back their power. Even though you feel powerless, you can take back your power. And don’t let nobody say that you can’t do it,” Knox said. She is breaking the cycle of violence for her young child. It’s one Mary Claire sees too often.
“We have to find some other alternatives to help people heal, not just jail them away. Many of these perpetrators are also victims of trauma, and have grown up with this,” Landry said. The New Orleans Family Justice Center says there were survivors, who were stabilized and on their own, but the pandemic caused them to lose their jobs and homes. Now they have cycled back into the trauma.