By Terra Rivers | Managing Editor
On Tuesday, the Hays County Commissioners Court received a presentation from Denise Fonseca regarding ‘Room 2 Hope.’
‘Room 2 Hope’ is a plan to upgrade the Victim Waiting Room within the Hays County District Attorney’s Office.
Fonseca is the founder of Unbeaten LLC and the non-profit initiative branded Room 2 Hope.
The initiative aims to improve the experience of victims of crimes such domestic violence while waiting to give their testimony in court.
Fonseca said she suffered from domestic violence for seven years, but through the remarkable efforts of Hays County Law Enforcement and many players at the DA’s office, her abuser was convicted of three felonies for continuous family violence in 2019.
“If it had not been for those people and their service, I would not be here today,” Fonseca said. “All victims of violent crimes are destined to spend countless hours in the courthouse victim waiting rooms. When you’re at your most vulnerable, your most terrified, your most distressed, these are cold, harsh rooms and the room for children is truly tragic.”
Fonseca said these rooms heighten the trauma of surviving the criminal justice system journey, something she aims to change.
The mission of Room 2 Hope is to “help justice to triumph for victims of violent crimes by creating environments that encourage hope.”
Fonseca aims to transform the victims waiting rooms in the DA’s office into warm and inviting environments that not only encourage victims but also make them feel safe.
“It is where they wait, and where I waited for many, many hours, to give evidence that is critical to the ability to endure both emotionally and mentally,” Fonseca said.
Fonseca plans to use her Restitution money and any cash or in-kind donations to fund the Hays County Room 2 Hope pilot.
Once completed, she hopes to roll the effort out county by county across Texas and the rest of the United States.
Fonseca said what she sought from commissioners was permission to perform the project, which she believed could be completed over a weekend.
She hopes to bring in volunteers from the Hays County Sheriff’s Office to help with the “heavy” lifting and involve Texas State Students from the school of art and design through a design competition.
The student or student teams would be asked to create a design on a budget; the winner(s) would receive a ‘brought to you by’ plaque in the room.
Fonseca said she hopes to find a muralist, who would be willing to participate in the project, and create a mural for the children’s room.
Commissioners and District Attorney Wes Mau spoke in favor of the project and asked the office of Legal Counsel to bring a license agreement back to court.
The agreement would spell out the necessary permission, procedures and rules she would need to finish out the project.
Commissioner Lon Shell said he thinks the county could provide some in-kind services too.
Commissioner Walt Smith said he would be happy to help Fonseca reach out to the bar association and help engage the different organizations, who work with and support the victims of violent crimes.
“I know resources have always been tight in the county,” Mau said. “Making sure the victims waiting room has been up to the level that I would like…has, of course, never been the highest priority. Having a project like this in place is going to I think make a big difference for some of the most vulnerable people we interact with.”
Mau said his office does what they can to make the process of going through the justice system as comfortable as they can, but he thinks Fonseca’s project is going to provide them with a comfortable environment that will give them the hope she seeks.
“If I have to be a victim, then at least I have to be one for a reason,” Fonseca said. “Room 2 Hope is my reason, and I believe that absolutely everybody needs Room 2 Hope.”