Boulder County’s Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence is a community of people committed to ending violence against adults, youth and children. That commitment shines through with everything they do for a community with domestic violence rates that nearly doubles the state average. We sat down with Alexandra Lynch, the development director of SPAN, to talk about what the program does.B
Yellow Scene: Can you tell our readers what SPAN does in Boulder County?
Alexandra Lynch: We are a domestic violence intervention and prevention program in Boulder County and, really, the entire Front Range. We have been around for about 36 years. We were founded in 1979 and we serve about 2,000 people a year. Also, we operate a 24 hour, 7 day a week crisis hotline, which gets about 9,000 calls a year from people looking for help. We offer a short-term shelter for someone who needs out of a situation to be safe. It’s for people who don’t have anywhere else to go. That will house about 375 women and children throughout the year. At the same time, we turn down about 1,000 people a year who are looking for shelter because we don’t have space. It’s a really big problem in Boulder County. We have higher rates of domestic violence here in Boulder County when compared to Colorado or United States as a whole. Keep in mind that it’s a highly underreported crime, so we estimate about 60 assaults a day in Boulder County. So, what we do is needed. That is apparent. Helping residents with long term care to help them out an abusive relationship is very important. People can stay in our transitional help services for up to two years.
YS: What does that two years look like?
AL: We are helping people get back on their feet. They can stay in the shelter for a while, and then we help them find affordable housing. With the impact on the economy here, rent is just out of control around the Front Range. It’s really hard for someone who is exiting a crazy, traumatic situation to find stable housing. So we offer help and support to help those people find something safe and affordable.
YS: Can you tell me a little about the shelter?
AL: Individuals or families can stay at our shelter for up to six weeks, although they can stay a little longer than that if they have a plan in place and just need a little more time. We give people the benefit. They are coming out of a crisis, so they are dealing with trauma. A number of people that come bring their children who also have experienced terrible things, so it’s all about making sure they are adjusted and ready. We hook them up with local programs to make sure they are ready for the next step. We help them with a number of things, as soon as they step foot in the shelter, which is a very secure, state of the art, safe space to relax for the first time in a long time. The shelter holds up to 27 people at a time in a communal living situation. We offer it to women, children, men and trans people. It can be challenging sometimes, but it’s an important service and we make it as comfortable as possible.
YS: What are the demographics of people you help?
AL: Relationship violence is still one that primarily impacts women. Among adults our demographics are overwhelmingly cisgender heterosexual females who have been abused by cisgender heterosexual males. But the shelter has become a resource for the transgender and homosexual males. Because of the way our shelter is built, people can find safety, privacy and respect around their situations.
YS: Why do you think that Boulder has a higher number of domestic abuse cases?
AL: Based on the last time Boulder County compiled data on domestic abuse in 2010, for every 1,000 people six of those will report a domestic violence crime. That’s about 1,700 reports to law enforcement every year, and we know according to FBI only about one out of 10 incidents get reported. So you can safely say about 17,000 times a year someone is assaulting his or her partner in Boulder County. This may be due to the college population, or the people here are more educated on their rights and call the police when it happens. Maybe we have an excellent police department that is more committed to crimes like this. I think you could also look at the bad side and say that every year about 20 percent of our population turns over, which isn’t even counting the students at CU. People move in and leave. But that could harbor a bit of ruthlessness, or they are more vulnerable. It’s really hard to extrapolate, but we know there is a lot of need for what we are doing out there in the community.