HELENA — Over the last month, the State of Montana has awarded more than $4.8 million dollars to organizations through the Social Services Nonprofit Grant program.
The program is part of the State’s COVID relief efforts funded by the federal CARES Act.
In Helena, The Friendship Center received a $10,000 grant from the program to help them protect the people they serve.
Each year The Friendship Center helps hundreds of victims of stalking, sexual assault and domestic violence, often providing much needed shelter to those individuals.
Executive Director Jenny Eck says COVID-19 has complicated some of the services of the congregate living shelter, but not stopped them from helping those in need.
“We’re definitely had to think it through each day and each week,” said Eck. “Thinking about how everyone is staying safe that day because we do provide an essential service and we have to be open.”
The Friendship Center implemented new quarantine protocols before people are able to move into the shelter.
“We’re not moving people in until we know they’re healthy and so that means putting them up in a hotel and making sure they’ve had a chance to get tested and the test results come back negative,” said Eck.
Eck explained that the process can be costly, and is very thankful for the help of the grant funding.
The Friendship Center has also been buying food for their clients, something they normally don’t do, just to further limit potential exposure to COVID.
As long a COVID is a threat, the additional costs of protecting the Friendship Center’s population will remain.
However, Eck wants people to know that if they’ve a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, The Friendship Center is ready and able to help.
“Being in a pandemic can really heighten the risks around domestic violence, so we are all the more aware of how needed we are,” said Eck. “What we found was a lull of reports in the beginning [of the pandemic]. We knew what was happening. When people are locked down and scared it’s hard to reach out. We’re starting to see an uptick now, and we’re seeing the violence itself be more extreme.”
The Friendship Center crisis hotline is available 24/7. Call 406-442-6800 to speak to an advocate if you are experiencing domestic abuse, stalking or sexual assault.
Eck says those who need help will never be turned away. If the person is sick or has been exposed to COVID-19, they will find a way to make sure they get the help they need.
Nonprofits across the nation are struggling with funding since COVID-19 has made it hard for traditional fundraisers.
Right now the best way to support the Friendship Center and their mission is to make a donation.