Hope’s Door shelter and hotline are always open and staffed, regardless of a global pandemic. But in March, just as the coronavirus curve in New York was on the rise, Hope’s Door’s administrators made the difficult decision to close the office and send our staff home to work remotely, taking inspiration from Governor Cuomo’s NYS PAUSE. For victims of domestic violence, however, there often is no pause in their need for help.
A few days into the NYS PAUSE, one Hope’s Door counseling client called their counselor in a clear panic. A dire situation had arisen from an argument with their partner, causing police involvement. The client was in immediate need of an Order of Protection. The client’s counselor, Jessica Beladino, and the Hope’s Door Legal Center Paralegal, Brittany Miraldi, worked together remotely, yet quickly and effectively, through emails and phone calls to ensure they addressed the client’s safety needs.
The courts in Westchester were scrambling to adjust protocol to fit a new virtual world. “In the legal profession, our work is most often done face to face. It is extremely difficult to advise someone over the phone, especially without being able to review any documentation in the case, such as text messages, photos or previous orders,” explains Miraldi. She adds, “Not only was the process unfamiliar to the client, but it was also unfamiliar to our legal team. Though we typically do this work daily, everything had changed overnight. We did not know if or how they would hear the case in the courthouse. We did not even know if the client would be able to go to the court to receive her Order of Protection, but we persevered.”
Miraldi believes that collaboration between departments at Hope’s Door is critical to the safety, independence and healing of our clients. “Community Services Counselor Beladino knew the intricacies of the case, like the abuser’s patterns and tactics, the client’s safety concerns in the home, and the reasons she needed to get an Order of Protection.” Beladino was able to connect with the client and provide them emotional support during the process, while also helping the legal team to understand clearly the specifics of the case.
“In situations like this, where you are dealing with people whose whole life has been turned upside down, you really want to look them in the eye, hold their hand, and convince them that they are not alone. Because of the pandemic, that connection might have been lost in this case. The expert collaboration between Community Services and The Legal Center mitigated the loss of personal interaction and helped the client to understand that they were still supported and that we, as a team, were going to do everything we could to ensure their safety,” says Director of Community Services, Janmarie Brown.
With the steadfast virtual assistance from Hope’s Door, the client obtained an Order of Protection in a matter of hours. The Respondent was served, and removed from the home the same day. In the days and weeks after they received the order, Hope’s Door counseling and legal staff remained in contact with the client, answering all their questions and addressing their concerns. Days later, Beladino received this email from the client, “Thank you for the support and guidance! You have empowered me.”
Hope’s Door will continue to collaborate to serve the community virtually, lending support, giving legal information and advice, and assisting victims of domestic violence during this difficult time. If you or someone you know is in need of help, please call our free and confidential, bilingual hotline at 888-438-8700.