Wellspring - Ending relationship and sexual abuse in Saratoga County

News & Events

Who is Standing Behind that Number?

44%                                   30%
25%                                  20%
             40%       22% 
So what do these numbers mean?
Average monthly income for a homeless individual- $348

Percent of homeless that did paid work during the past month 44%

Percent of homeless that have been homeless for more than two (2) years 30%

Number of Americans who now live in hunger or on the edge of hunger    31,000,000
Percent of homeless persons who are employed 25%

Percent of people in a soup kitchen line who are children  20%
Percent of homeless population that are Veterans / Vets   40%
Percent of homeless women who claim domestic abuse as the reason for their homelessness 22% 

I may be  writing statistics....  but as I write each number I'm thinking of the people behind that number.

So I Stayed in the Van…

In a quick but poignant Ted Talk, Becky Blanton describes how a  choice to live in a van on 'one long camping trip' for a year spiraled unexpectedly into homelessness, depression and profound insights on how we value others and ourselves, "I don't know when or how it happened, but the speed at which I went from being a talented writer and journalist to being a homeless woman living in a van took my breath away." 

With the same limited resources as other people she saw at the homeless health clinic ("I just wasn't drunk or high") she felt like she was living their struggles...but they quickly noted that she didn't belong with them, "You have a job,. You have hope. The real homeless don't have hope." 

Like about 25-40% of homeless persons-- she represented the invisible homeless population of people who are working but just can't make ends meet. Increasingly here in Saratoga County, at our soup kitchens and food pantries, in our emergency shelters and at Code Blue, we assist people who are employed but find themselves without food and a regular place to sleep at night. Often they too were surprised at how quickly their lives spiraled into homelessness... and more often than you'd imagine they leave  work and spend the night  in a shelter, or a tent, or like Becky, they stlept in their car in the heat of summer and the cold of winter .

Tomorrow's blog post- some surprising statistics about homelessness

NYS ranks #3 in the nation… and that’s not good

Census2014This is the 9th consecutive year that NNEDV the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) has provided a one-day snapshot of domestic violence needs and services across the country.
Here's the link to the  2014 National Domestic Violence Counts Report. Connie Neal of the NYS Coalition Against Domestic Violence summed up some of the most salient points relating to domestic violence services in New York State:

"Once again, New York State ranks #3 in the country regarding 'Total People Served' as well as 'Unmet Requests for Services'. Of the Unmet Requests for Services, the most frequently requested need in our state that could not be addressed was for housing.

The Census also indicated that domestic violence programs in New York simply do not have the resources that they need to maintain advocates, and respond to critical requests for domestic violence services."


Here's some info on the scope of services provided across the state. About 3/4 of the 96 providers across the state responded to the survey. On this one day alone they provided:

  • Emergency shelter and transitional housing for 2,230 individuals (1,242 children and 988 adults)
  • 1,854 non residential services such as counseling and legal advocacy
  • 1,045 hotline calls
  • 1,041 individuals with prevention education programs (52 training programs total)
And here's what we couldn't do:   There were 605 unmet requests for services (40% of these were for housing).   Why couldn't we meet these needs?
         Cause of Unmet Requests for Help  
  • 29% reported reduced government funding.
  • 13% reported not enough staff
  • 8% reported cuts from private funding sources.
  • 8% reported reduced individual donations.
  Why is this important?

Because without the funds for essential services to help survivors of domestic violence, this mom who fled abuse in the night and had no supports to help her, wouldn't  months later transition with her son from shelter into their own apartment free of abuse,

"[The staff at Wellspring] supported me and helped me when I was going through a very tough moment in my life. They were there for me when I needed someone to talk, to advise me how to get help, supporting me during the court days.
The staff were also always nice and helpful with my son. They made our stay as easy as possible. They supported us with summer camp for day care when I could not afford it so I could keep working." 

I Wish We Didn’t Need This

June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

It's sad that  our world needs a day to raise awareness about elder abuse. I think of all the traditions where honoring one's elders is a sacred foundation on which family, community and society are built, and I wonder how we've gravitated away from this core  value.  The number of elderly in our country is experiencing unprecedented growth, and that presents challenges.  Studies show that ~10% of elders are abused. Abuse may include physical abuse, social isolation, psychological abuse, financial control, sexual abuse and neglect.

Elders are frequently very reticent to tell anyone about the abuse. Sometimes because it's a spouse, son or daughter who is abusing them and they fear involving the police because of the impact on someone they love. Sometimes they are afraid of losing their independence. And often it's because they were raised in a time when private matters were kept private. 
America's Growing Elderly Population
This graph from the National Center on  Elder Abuse  shows the increasing
numbers of people 65+ and 85+ in the US.

Often the elder is abused by a trusted family member. friend or caregiver. Unlike decades ago when families remained close to home, increasingly people are scattered across the country or the globe. Often, when abuse is discovered, family members are shocked that someone they trusted would abuse their loved one. So it's up  to all of us to be aware of the signs of elder abuse and watch out for vulnerable seniors.

Related posts:

12 Hours Well Spent

The New York Times reports that a study of a rape prevention program piloted on 3 Canadian colleges showed highly favorable results- the incidence of rape among female college freshmen who took the course was 50% less than those who didn't. The program had three components:

  • assessing risk
  • learning self-defense techniques, and 
  • assessing personal boundaries.
It's inevitable; the program has its critics. Some fault the program for focusing on those who may be victims rather than getting to the root cause of sexual violence- individuals choosing to commit the assaults. I don't disagree, but I'm loathe to wait for a perfect world before giving a person knowledge to protect (him)herself. Yes, we need to address the root causes of sexual violence. And we need to give bystanders awareness, skills, and investment in stepping in when they see a situation. But it's equally important to have discussions with college women- and men- so they can consider how their actions can detract from or enhance their safety. Is it right that a young women who is intoxicated is at increased risk of rape? No... but it's a reality. Knowing this information, she can make different choices about limiting the number of drinks... or may implement safety strategies before a night on the town. And knowing the risks, friends may also more actively watch out for a friend who has had a few too many. 

What really struck me about the study was the verifiable impact. According to one of the study's authors, "Only 22 women would need to take the course to prevent one rape from happening." That's a powerful outcome from a 12 hour prevention program. In New York State, scores of rape crisis agencies lost funding for prevention activities last year when the NYS Department of Heath unexpectedly changed their funding strategy. For many programs, Wellspring included,  the DOH funds had been the sole source of funds supporting prevention activities. Before these funding cuts more than 4,000 participants attended Wellspring's  prevention programs each year. We know the programs make a difference, because students tell us they've changed behaviors we know increase risk of sexual violence,  but we need more research like this into cost-effective prevention strategies to guide and substantiate our impact.  

How does Fluffy Relate to Domestic Vioence and Child Abuse?



Tomorrow one of Wellspring's advocates will  once again attend Animal Advocacy Day. We'll have information on our Safe Pet Partnership, but our reason for being there is even broader. People who abuse pets, often also abuse children and their partners. Unchecked, abuse of animals can lead to patterns of power and control that extend to family members.

Abusers also use the love we have for our pets as a tool of coercion, often threatening to harm or kill a pet is the victim tries to leave the relationship. Recognizing this powerful tactic, our legal system allows pets to be included on orders of protection.


Wellspring's Safe Pet Partnership (developed in 1999 with the assistance of Leadership Saratoga) provides temporary placement with a loving foster family for pets while the family members are in shelter. After the family leaves shelter, they are a reunited with their pet in a new violence-free home... and together they share a future without fear and violence.

Quietly Helping our Neediest Children for 50 Years

Ever heard of the Hawley Foundation? I bet most Saratogians haven't, but they've been changing lives in our community for 50 years. And they do it because they care and with no expectation of recognition.

Wellspring's Maggie Fronk and Hawley Foundation's
 Board President Pam Polascek
For many years the Hawley Foundation has  provided funding so Wellspring can  provide: clothing, basic necessities, social and recreational programs for children, and summer camperships so children can be safe while their moms (or dads) remain employed, building a new life free of abuse.

Last night I was privileged to attend the Hawley Foundation's awards ceremony. While I was pleased  to  receive on behalf of Wellspring a generous gift from Hawley to support  the youth we assist, it was even more heartwarming to hear the history and impact of the Hawley Foundation on our community. In 1888 Augusta P. Wiggins began caring for orphaned children; her example led other Saratogians to join with her and for 16 years they and provided homes for orphaned children. In 1904, they secured a building for an orphanage, the Hawley Home. The orphanage closed its doors after 61 years, but the Foundation continues to support local agencies that serve the neediest children in Saratoga County.

A couple of years ago, former Mayor Scott Johnson told me a story about the Hawley Foundation's history that demonstrated what for the time period was a very progressive approach.  In those days when a family relinquished a child to an orphanage the parents gave up all their rights to the children. The Hawley Home, however, understood that sometimes parents loved their children but simply couldn't afford to rear them... so they let the parents and children maintain their relationship. Maybe a parent had died and the remaining parent had to work so could not care for the children, and placed them in the Hawley Home. They could still visit and hopefully in time the financial circumstances would improve so the children could return home. In the helping professions we often talk about "meeting people where they're at"; the Hawley Foundation was doing that long before trendy jargon popularized this concept.

What an impact they've made! In the past 15 years alone they've donated $2 million to local youth-serving organizations... but the real measure of success is how many families and children they've assisted. Last night one former resident of the Hawley Home was there with his wife. Decades later he's a passionate supporter of the Hawley Foundation because he knows what a difference they made back then... and continue to make today.

It’s 2 Letters…What’s so Confusing?

It's a really short word, but it should be one of the most powerful words in our vocabulary.

I understand how the meanings of these top 10 longest English words can be confusing, but there's a whole lot more discussion, confusion, and debate about the meaning of 'NO'.

From Yale's Delta Kappa Epsilon pledges parading in front of the women's dorm chanting the disgusting and debasing "No means yes. Yes means anal" to Bud Light's most recent messaging that suggests they may have imbibed too many brewskies before vetting their new slogan, "Bud Light... the perfect beer for removing 'no' from your vocabulary for the night. #UPFORWHATEVER",  it seems 'no' confuses people.

When does the word no fracture and dissolve from the compact and unmistakably definitive utterance of a toddler announcing his or her authentic power to a towering adult, "NO!", to a wimpy nebulous word that is so easily dismissed.

If 'no' is so confusing, perhaps we need to place our trust in verifying intent with a resounding 'yes'.

UPDATE: Budweiser quickly responded to public outcry about their slogan, "The perfect beer for removing 'no' from your vocabulary for the night". Vice President, Alexander Lambrecht stated, “It’s clear that this message missed the mark, and we regret it.” While they cannot recall the bottles in circulation, they indicated no further bottles would be labeled with this message.

Investing in Homeless Persons

There' always an uncomfortable line between homelessness and a community's economic vibrancy. It's not that business owners don't care about the homeless. Saratoga's Code Blue totally disproved that myth; without the generosity of our local businesses 83 people would have been forced to spend 85 nights on the street in frigid temperatures last winter alone. Instead businesses like Longfellows and the Old Bryan Inn provided meals and  Cudney's laundered bedding and afforded the guests the ability to launder their clothing. It's not their mission, but these businesses saved lives this winter.

But street homelessness can also detract from a safe and vibrant business district...and those very caring business owners find their customers aren't walking through their doors. The solution isn't simply charity for those in need. It's investing in programs that help homeless persons to find the way past their struggles; first by providing humanitarian aid for basic needs, but moving past that to provide support and accountability as they work toward a better life. This may sound simple and naive, but everyday local nonprofits like Shelters of Saratoga, CAPTAIN, EOC and Wellspring achieve these outcomes and help people attain personal dreams.

This video set in a corporate boardroom   demonstrates that when  businesses and nonprofits work together toward solutions they can create powerful change... that's mutually beneficial. I loved watching the tense, fearful expressions on the business persons transform into radiant hope as homelessness was humanized with just one surprising story. We often don't think about what a thin curtain divides 'us' and 'them' until someone opens the curtain and let's the light shine on us.