AUSTIN – The Texas Council on Family Violence’s (TCFV) 2020 Swalm Grants, totaling $250,000, are being awarded to 22 domestic violence agencies across Texas as they deal with the economic hardship and increased violence caused by COVID-19.
Individual grants range from $2,250 to $15,000 and come from TCFV’s Swalm Endowment Fund.
Swalm grantees are selected annually in a competitive application process by at-large TCFV board members who are ineligible to apply themselves.
This year, priority was given to applicants that specified a need related to COVID-19 or a service area highlighted in the Texas State Plan, a report TCFV published in 2019 to identify the biggest gaps in domestic violence services.
“I’ve never seen a greater time of need for domestic violence victims and agencies than the one COVID-19 has induced,” said CEO of TCFV Gloria Aguilera Terry. “Texas has experienced an increase in domestic violence hotline calls during the pandemic, and we know that economic distress hinders victims from leaving life-threatening relationships. This year, agencies’ needs were so great that TCFV awarded more Swalm Grants than usual, and each amount was given with the hope and expectation that it would save Texas lives.”
This year, nearly half of the 48 applications submitted were selected for funding of at least 50 percent of the applicant’s requested amount. A list of all 2020 recipients reads:
- Abigail’s Arms Cook County Family Crisis Center; Gainesville
- Asian Family Support Service of Austin; Austin
- Bastrop County Women’s Shelter; Bastrop
- Bay Area Turning Point, Inc.; Houston
- Denton County Friends of the Family; Denton
- East Texas Crisis Center, Inc.; Tyler
- Eastland County Crisis Center; Eastland
- Family Services of Southeast Texas; Beaumont
- Family Time Counseling & Crisis Center; Humble
- First Step of Wichita Falls; Wichita Falls
- Focusing Families; Hempstead
- Freedom House; Weatherford
- Friendship of Women; Brownsville
- Grayson County Women’s Crisis Line; Sherman
- Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center; San Marcos
- Kendall County Women’s Shelter; Boerne
- SafeHaven of Tarrant County; Arlington
- Southwest Family Life Centers, Inc.; Hondo
- The Bridge Over Troubled Waters; Pasadena
- The SAFE Alliance; Austin
- Women in Need; Greenville
- Women’s Protective Services; Lubbock
Of the 22 grants awarded, 13 will be used for infrastructure projects, two will be dedicated to improving prevention services and seven will be purposed for flexible funding, which includes covering costs of childcare, legal services, past (and frequently forced) debt, evictions and rent.
Three agencies in particular exemplified the most urgent needs of the year.
Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center in San Marcos plans to use its grant to build 18 units of transitional housing for victims, as well as classrooms and childcare centers for 0-5-year-olds.
The agency cited domestic violence as the leading cause of homelessness in women and children and noted that youth exposed to domestic violence can suffer life-long consequences and up to a 20-year shorter life expectancy.
Both transitional housing and affordable childcare were listed in TCFV’s Texas State Plan as two of the greatest barriers to victims trying to leave an abusive relationship.
Denton County Friends of the Family reported a 36 percent increase in crisis hotline calls since stay-at-home orders were put in place.
It will use the Swalm Grant to improve telehealth services and shift resources online, making advocacy and counseling more accessible to clients who cannot attend in-person appointments because of COVID-19 concerns or because of Denton County’s lack of public transit.
The agency will also add text availability to its crisis hotline, knowing that victims under constant surveillance of their abuser might not be able to call for help.
Asian Family Support Services of Austin submitted a request for funds to help support Asian survivors currently facing a triple threat — risk of virus exposure, economic distress, and racial blame of East Asians for the Coronavirus.
The organization plans to use the Swalm Grant to meet clients’ basic needs by providing food and grocery gift cards, rental and housing assistance, and online communication means for victims and their school-aged children who do not have access to technology.
To track the direct impact of Swalm Grants, TCFV requires every recipient to submit a report at the end of the grant cycle detailing their use of the funds and its effect on survivors.
“We assisted 59 victims of domestic violence during our grant period,” said, Conny Steele, interim director of Highland Lakes Family Crisis Center in Marble Falls, a 2019 Swalm Grant recipient that used funds to help survivors pay for essential needs. “We assisted clients with utilities, housing, transportation, school supplies, clothing, medicine, birth certificates, legal fees, vehicle registration, ID cards, car repairs and phone bills.”