Nonprofit offering haven for survivors reaches 30-year milestone
Moab area nonprofit Seekhaven is celebrating its 30th anniversary. The nonprofit assists survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in southeastern Utah.
In 1990, Seekhaven opened up to provide shelter for homeless populations in Moab, including those impacted by domestic violence.
The shelter was one of the first in rural Utah. Over the years, the organization narrowed its scope to focus on providing assistance to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
The shelter originally opened with three full-time staff and a volunteer to serve Moab. Now, 30 years later, Seekhaven has 19 full-time benefited employees and serves the greater Southeastern Utah area with a wide range of essential services including client advocacy, emergency shelter, and transition assistance.
Seekhaven Executive Director Abi Taylor explains the nonprofit has extended its reach in San Juan County over the past few years.
Seekhaven has served an increasing number of clients in San Juan County since they began outreach in 2018. In that initial year, Seekhaven helped 42 different individuals dealing with issues of domestic violence and/or sexual assault. That number rose to 60 people in 2019, and 77 in 2020.
So far in 2021, San Juan County advocates have served 19 separate individuals.
The nonprofit’s main work in San Juan County is provided by its two advocate roles. One position is currently open for applicants.
The advocates at Seekhaven provide support for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault as they obtain safety and establish stability in their lives.
Victim advocates also maintain support groups and other programs while abiding by a strict code of conduct and maintaining confidentiality at all times.
Taylor explains advocates with Seekhaven serve many roles.
“Advocacy looks different for everyone,” she said. “For one person it might be getting connected to a counselor or requesting essential aid for some specific thing.
“For others, it’s someone to attend court or to attend a medical appointment with them.”
In addition to advocacy work in San Juan County, Seekhaven provides shelter services for those in need at their location in Moab.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic put an additional strain on the nonprofit. Comparing July through September 2019 to the same period in 2020, Seekhaven saw a dramatic rise in needs throughout its service area.
Hotline calls in the time period jumped by more than 100 percent, from 288 to 595. Emergency shelter nights increased by 120 percent, from 294 to 652, and high-risk lethality assessments jumped from two to 12, a 500 percent increase.
High-risk lethality assessments are responses to situations where certain contributors could lead to homicide.
Taylor says the increase is shocking, “I’ve seen some of the hardest cases since my time here.”
Interestingly, Taylor also notes that the number of unduplicated individuals served only increased by about eight percent over the July to September time period, but the needs of the clients increased dramatically.
“We’re not serving too many more people,” she said. “But their situations are more dire or dangerous.”
While needs have increased for Seekhaven, available grant funding has decreased. Seekhaven usually receives about $500,000 per year from the federal Victims of Crimes Act (VOCA).
Taylor explains VOCA uses fees and fines from white-collar criminals to help fund these services, but Seekhaven learned they were seeing a significant cut in funding as the money has been redirected.
Taylor says a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives could help steady VOCA funding in future years, but it will not kick in this year.
In celebration of 30-years of work, Seekhaven sponsors have raised $30,000 for the nonprofit. Now, Seekhaven is challenging community members to match that same amount.
Pearls are a traditional gift after 30 years of marriage. In keeping with tradition, the campaign is featuring ‘pearls of wisdom’ or anonymous stories of those who have interacted with and benefited from the agency.
You can read those stories and make a donation online at Seekhaven.org.
Seekhaven’s 24/7 helpline can be reached at 435-259-2229.