Grab your fine china or your finest paper plates because Denton County Friends of the Family is hosting a 40th Anniversary Virtual Gala and EVERYONE has a seat at the table! Our 40th Anniversary Virtual Gala takes place on Thursday, October 8th from 6:30 PM to 8 PM. You can decorate your table however you like and join us for an evening of celebration as we look back on the last 40 years and look forward to the future.
You don’t want to miss our Early Bird tickets, which has been extended until this Friday, September 11th, 2020. Be the head of your community table and purchase your meal tickets TODAY!
This Virtual Event, will feature a special guest, Dale Hansen, familiar faces from over the years, and you will be treated to the musical stylings of Lorrie's Joy.
Witness first-hand the life changing impact on clients made possible by supporters like you. Sponsors are an integral part of this event, and enable us to raise the most funds possible that go right back into our programs. Every penny counts! To learn more about sponsorship opportunities, click the button below.
Our Silent Auction will be open to the public, beginning Monday, October 5th and ending Friday October 9th at 11:59 PM (CST), so get your wallets ready, you won’t want to miss out on the amazing items we have lined up!
You will want to make sure and finish your dessert because at the end of our virtual event we will have a groundbreaking announcement that you don't want to miss!
We can’t wait to see you virtually on October 8th as we celebrate 40 years of service here in Denton County.
We are excited to welcome Kelly Briggs to the Denton County Friends of the Family Marketing and Development Team!
A Denton native, Kelly has deep roots in the Denton community. Moving to Seattle for eight years, Kelly returned to Denton and was part of the first graduating class out of Billy Ryan High School. After attending UNT, Kelly moved to Denver to complete her degree in Speech Communications with an emphasis in Broadcast at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Working for brands and organizations like CBS, Clear Channel, Disney, the Dallas Stars and Susan G. Komen, Kelly brings 20 years of marketing, communications, community relations, media relations, fundraising and development experience with her to Denton County Friends of the Family. Her time in for profit and nonprofit sectors has created a large network of local Denton community, DFW area and national contacts. DCFOF’s mission has been imprinted on Kelly’s heart from a very young age when she would create care packages with her grandmother for women and children entering the shelter. Kelly is dedicated to providing compassionate, comprehensive services to those impacted by rape, sexual abuse, and domestic violence, while partnering with our community to promote safety, hope, healing, justice, and prevention (the DCFOF mission).
As the Director of Marketing & Development, Kelly is excited to hit the ground running during the 40th anniversary of the agency and can’t wait to see what the next 40 years hold!
Kelly is married to her childhood sweetheart Clay and they have three children, a cat, a dog and a 3-legged red healer. During her rare down time, Kelly loves spending time with her family and friends, listening to music, laughing as much as possible and traveling as much as she can. Feel free to reach out and connect with Kelly as she would love to talk with you and find ways you can partner with DCFOF: email@example.com
Aid For Domestic Violence Victims Still Available During Pandemic
Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, resources are still available to anyone experiencing domestic violence in Denton County and nationally.
Denton County is currently under a stay-at-home order where people are encouraged to stay home except for essential businesses, with public school classes canceled until at least May. These measures to prevent the virus from spreading also bring concerns that domestic violence could increase because people will be closed in with their abusers.
Denton City Council member Keely Briggs on Thursday led a virtual discussion with Denton Police Chief Frank Dixon and Toni Johnson-Simpson, the executive director for Denton County Friends of the Family, to address these concerns.
The main takeaway is that victims of abuse can still reach out for help to both the police and Friends of the Family. Dixon reminded viewers that people can reach police by texting 911.
“We are doing intakes and counseling and advocacy, as well as legal consults,” Johnson-Simpson said. “We’re doing all those by phone now or by video conferencing.”
Denton police continue to respond to calls for service and are still investigating reported crimes, Dixon said. Both Johnson-Simpson and Dixon said people should call 911 rather than Friends of the Family if there is imminent danger.
“We are staying consistent [in calls], especially when we’re talking about crimes of violence,” Dixon said. “The men and women of the Denton Police Department [are] still out there doing their job every day like they were prior to the pandemic.”
Dixon said the Police Department received about 12 fewer domestic violence cases in March 2020 than March 2019 but wants people to be aware that sometimes people can’t report family violence.
“I don’t want people to get lulled into a false sense of [security] because we’re down 12 cases from the same time … last year, that we don’t have a significant increase,” Dixon said.
Johnson-Simpson said Friends of the Family has seen a 36% increase in calls from mid-March to the end of the month; however, she noted that those calls were largely people seeking information on their resources now that many functions such as the court system have largely shut down as a measure to fight COVID-19.
Although financial stress during the pandemic can influence abuse, she said it’s highly likely that there was a power and control dynamic in place beforehand.
“The basic issue is power and control, so we can’t lose sight of that,” Johnson-Simpson said. “If we lose sight of it being about power and control … when COVID-19 is over, we forget that domestic violence still exists.”
Friends of the Family had 61 new requests for intakes from March 18 to March 31, which is on par for what they see on a monthly basis, but Johnson-Simpson said they expect the number will go down since there has been a shift in switching to phone and video response from them.
“I would think that [the new intakes] really were already homes that were experiencing violence or some level of control in the homes, and perhaps this proximity and the quarantine certainly may escalate an already difficult situation,” she said.
Johnson-Simpson said it’s probably unrealistic for cases to come in where a victim says there was no violence or level of power and control before the pandemic.
Briggs also mentioned the concern about nonviolent inmates being released. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo signed an order Wednesday to release up to 1,000 nonviolent inmates.
If this were to happen in Denton County, Johnson-Simpson said her concern is that offenders who were jailed on nonviolent crimes, who have a history with domestic violence, would then continue to be abusive.
“You can’t make a broad sweep or broad brush and say that we need to release all these folks that we’re deeming nonviolent, which will put some of these abusers back into their homes with these families,” Dixon said. “We need to have a very thoughtful conversation on what we’re doing to those homes. Are we sending abusers back into it? … How can we keep [victims] safe at the same time while balancing public health?”
Friends of the Family is still accepting people at its shelter and can help people into hotels if needed. They screen people’s temperatures before they arrive and recently kept a family isolated from others after being tested.
Now that kids are largely at home because their schooling has moved online, they don’t have access to other adults — their teachers — who can spot red flags or signs of abuse at home.
Johnson-Simpson and Dixon said it can be hard to spot red flags sometimes because a kid may be shy in nature, and because some people are waiting to hear about physical violence rather than other power-play moves in the home before thinking something is wrong.
“With school being out, children lose access to a lot of safe people in their lives,” Johnson-Simpson said. “Yet the teachers are still interacting with them online … our grocery store workers, our clerks, for all those people who are still out there that are having access to the public, I would just encourage people that if you see something, say something.”
If victims can’t call 911, they can text 911 in Denton. Denton County Friends of the Family’s crisis hotline can be reached at 940-382-7273 or 800-572-403. Victims can text the National Domestic Hotline line at 22522.*
Written by Denton Record Chronicle's Staff Writer Zaira Perez
*please note that the name for the National Domestic Hotline was edited from the original article to reflect the accurate name of the agency to text.
On Friday, February 7th, Denton County Friends of the Family's very own Our Community Matter's Coordinator, Cassandra Berry put on our third annual An Evening of Raised Awareness! It was another success, thanks not only to our staff and community members for attending, but also to our community supporters who donated to the event. There was a live performance from Gray Skool, a Joe Rogers Trio, a skit called "The Subtlety of It" an adaptation by Cassandra Berry, Directed by Sienna Riehle and performed by Victor "Juice' Berry and Aiyanna Salters, and a musical ending by Lorie's Joy, a Denton County Friends of the Family Choir.
This year we had a panel discussion on the importance of raising awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault within the African American community. Facilitated by Nakia Davis, our panelists were Britni Canon, a Licensed Professional Counselor and Nationally Certified Counselor as well as a prior DCFOF Board Member, Sheryl English, Realtor and Community Leader who is Chair of the Denton Housing Authority Board of Directors, Betty Hardin First Lady of St. Andrew C.O.G.I., Denton, Celicia Boykin, STD Coordinator at Denton Public Health Department, and Aiyanna Salters, Survivor. Our panelists provided an in depth and poignant discussion about breaking down barriers and how to address the issue of domestic violence within the African American Community.
Denton County Friends of the Family is extremely grateful to our Annual Partner, Plunk Smith, PLLC as well as our community sponsors who helped make this event possible. Thank you for supporting our community and An Evening of Raised Awareness!
For many, the holidays are a time filled with gifts, food, loved ones, and magic, but this is not the case for everyone. Some view the holidays as a reminder that they may not have the funds to provide a feast for their family or presents under the tree. At Denton County Friends of the Family, we strive to bring magic back into the holidays — specifically for our clients who may be spending the holidays in our emergency shelter, or in the middle of transitioning into permanent housing.
Thanksgiving Day can be a painful reminder of our clients’ struggle with housing. That is why our team works hard to ensure that our clients can still enjoy the holiday. On Thanksgiving Day, we cater a full Thanksgiving meal for families, with comfort foods like turkey, sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce, to name a few! Clients are also able to cook meals that may be traditional or meaningful to them. For our clients in the transitional housing program, being able to provide a Thanksgiving Day meal for them in their new home is an empowering experience.
The winter holiday at the shelter is a beautiful expression of togetherness: everyone joins in to decorate the home with lights, tinsel, and festive flair. Our shelter team gets together a few weeks before the big day to decorate the tree, and the children join in the fun by making holiday banners, wishing everyone well. Our transitional housing program provides our clients with decorations and a tree for their new home. On Christmas Eve, the shelter staff place presents under the tree for each family in the home. Our transitional housing program clients can do the same thing, thanks to our Adopt-A-Family program. For children living in our shelter, or participating in the transitional housing program, there is nothing more magical than waking up to presents under the tree, surrounded by loved ones.
Clients in our shelter or Transitional Housing program say they don’t feel like they’re in a program or a shelter. Instead, they feel like they’re part of a big family. This holiday season, you can be a part of the DCFOF family striving to make a difference in the lives of our clients by donating or volunteering. As we step into the holidays, help us ensure that everyone, regardless of their circumstance, experiences the same love and celebration that we hope you do during all year-round.
If you live in Denton, you likely know that access to affordable and stable housing is a significant issue that profoundly impacts people across our community. At our agency, we see clients living at the intersection of homelessness and domestic violence who are in dire need of the services provided by our Transitional Housing Program. To better understand how our city is addressing the housing crisis, we attended The Affordable Housing Panel, which took place on September 5th at CoServ’s headquarters in Corinth. Check out our insights into what we learned.
What the Experts Said
Many different organizations attended the panel, each offering a unique perspective on the affordable housing situation in Denton County. Sheryl English, a chair of the Denton Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, discussed Denton Housing Authority’s limitations in providing housing vouchers to citizens in need. English noted that the waitlist for housing vouchers stands at a long two years and that they are currently not accepting new additions at this time. English also spoke to the crucial difference between the Dallas Housing Authority (DHA) North Texas and the Public Housing program. Public Housing is a government-funded and run agency that we do not have in Denton.
On the other hand, DHA funding comes from the government; however, it is not a government entity. In discussing what our city is doing to encourage building more affordable housing, Dani Shaw, Community Development Manager for the City of Denton, explained the different tax and building incentives that the city could offer builders, such as flexibility with city codes during construction. If the City of Denton can provide different ways that contractors can cut costs, then they are more likely to offer affordable housing in the community.
How the housing crisis impacts low-income individuals in Denton
Much of the focus of the panel discussion centered around how the community can further advocate for affordable housing on the city and county levels. As it currently stands, there is not enough housing for the city of Denton or for Denton County that is accessible for individuals and families with a lower income. In their 2019 Out of Reach study, the National Low-Income Housing Coalition found that to afford a 2-bedroom unit, without paying more than 30% of their income, a person needs to make $20.29 an hour. Individuals not making that much might find themselves cutting costs in other areas which can impact their health or wellbeing, leading to housing instability and homelessness. Adults might keep an average of two full-time jobs or more to afford a two-bedroom home, according to the same study.
Victims of domestic abuse are often hit hardest
The panel did more than contextualize the need for more affordable housing; they also took time to discuss some of the challenges to the development of affordable housing and the ways in which people can get involved in making that possible. This has an adverse impact on our clients.
If you consider that 99% of domestic violence victims also experience economic abuse, then it becomes easier to understand why access to stable housing is a vital component to the safety of our clients — and often the most challenging barrier to their success.
Often, victims of domestic abuse can experience discrimination in housing and development. Affordable housing (or workplace housing, as Dr. Laura Keyes encouraged us to call it) tends to be met with community pushback. It is a phenomenon referred to as “Not in My Backyard” or NIMBY-ism. There is a harmful misconception that people living in low-income housing will bring issues, such as drug or alcohol addiction, domestic violence, and higher unemployment rates in the area, which people fear will drive down property values and increase crime rates. Often, once residents find that zoning for low-income housing is near their neighborhood, lobbying against construction begins.
It’s time for the community to speak up
But the stigma is misguided, notes the panelists. The people who primarily need workforce housing are average Americans — teachers, first responders, or retail workers. It’s time for community members to push back and help address some of those misconceptions. To make matters worse, the state of Texas does not have laws that protect from income discrimination, allowing properties to turn people away who do not meet strict income restrictions or who are working with housing programs, such as Section 8. The lack of accessibility severely limits the places that prospective tenants can access or, worse, can prevent them from accessing housing at all.
Whether you call it workplace housing or affordable housing, it is critical to remember that access to a stable place to live is a significant issue that affects people across North Texas. Moreover, affordable housing is crucial to the success of the clients we serve every day at Denton County Friends of the Family. You can get involved by contacting your City Council representative, educating yourself on the issue, and supporting our Transitional Housing Program. Denton, this issue is in your backyard — and it impacts every single one of us. We cannot afford to look the other way.