Funding was only one aspect of community cooperation. For organizations like Safe Horizon, which helps victims of domestic abuse in New York City find safe shelter and get necessary support and access to life-saving information, reaching that population during a pandemic was especially challenging.
“We collaborated with [the Floating Hospital] on an educational seminar to increase awareness of domestic violence, which is a pandemic within the pandemic,” says Rebecca Hernandez, DOVE (Domestic and Other Violence Emergencies) director for the organization, who participated in a Zoom presentation with Floating Hospital director of behavioral health Dr. Igda Martinez, and K Bain, founder of 696 Build Queensbridge’s “violence disrupter” initiative. “Because of this, we reached a much wider audience..”
The population served by Safe Horizon is especially tricky, not only because the locations of safe houses are kept private to protect the victims and their families, but during the pandemic, when people were sequestered to their homes, domestic violence increased at an alarming rate. From March 16 to May 16, 2020, the National Domestic Violence Hotline recorded 62,413 contacts—calls, texts and online chats—a 9% increase and 10% of those contacts (6,210) specifically citing Covid-19 as the cause of abuse suffered. In New York State, state troopers reported a 33% increase in calls relating to such abuse in April 2020 compared to 2019.
Safe Horizon provided access to that vulnerable community, assisting with pickups, provided by the Floating Hospital’s Good Health Shuttle, for safe house residents in discreet locations so they could keep their healthcare appointments.
“We have many partnerships and collaborate a lot of people and organizations, from the Floating Hospital to council members and politicians to Albany itself,” says Hernandez. “Everyone is working together and that’s something at Safe Horizon that we value. To help the client is the goal for everyone – it’s what we can do.”
The partnerships continued after the height of the pandemic as needs evolved to vaccine administration. For that, the Floating Hospital turned to its 12-year-long relationship with Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens and turned facilities into pop-up vaccination clinics that reached hundreds of senior citizens, as well as Catholic Charities’ frontline workers in its 20 food pantries (a service that rose 1000% in demand over the pandemic).
“We did close to 300 shots. At the time, getting vaccinations was pretty much impossible and [the Floating Hospital] was really a lifesaver,” says Debbie Hamson, senior director of community outreach services for Catholic Charities. “When we collaborate, we bring in other services and it really enhances what we bring to the community. A lot of times people don’t like to ask for help, but when we’re out there in the community tabling and saying, ‘Hey, we’re here!’ people are more likely to stop and get help.”
— Amy Zavatto