HELENA — The Friendship Center in Helena has provided survivors of sexual assault, stalking and domestic violence with a safe place to stay as well as financial services for fifty years.
And through the pandemic they have seen an increase of need from those they help,
The Friendship Center in Helena provides a safe haven for those impacted by domestic violence, and sexual assault by providing financial services, and even shelter for those who need it.
And during the pandemic, the center has seen a spike in need.
“We have seen an increase in services through the fall and now in to 2021 and I think a lot of the services that we are seeing are still those immediate basic need level so people's housing or is more unstable than ever their ability to have access to food and phone is more unstable than ever the transportation has been a really huge barrier for a lot of our clients,” said Gina Boesdorfer, Executive Director of The Friendship Center.
The center has also seen a greater need of shelter, as the Friendship Center clients say the cruelty and abuse they faced also increased during stay-at-home orders,
"We heard from a lot of our clients that the severity and the frequency of violence has significantly increased we heard from our sexual assault clients that they were afraid to go access care to do reports or follow through that process because it just felt like too much on top of everything or they were fearful that risk of exposure,” said Boesdorfer.
But through it all the center has been serving those who have been victims of stalking, domestic violence, and sexual assault for 50 years in the Queen City, which to the staff of the Friendship Center is encouraging.
"A lot of the crimes that we have today stalking and domestic violence, sexual assault, they weren't crimes 50 years ago it wasn't illegal to do a lot of those things to people in your lives and now all of those things are very much illegal and laws get stronger to protect folks and we've just seen this huge change over the last 50 years in the movement and this huge progression of support and agencies and resources and to be able to be here 50 years later in to look back on all that time and see all of that changes just really humbling and pretty incredible,” said Boesdorfer.
Now the center is celebrating the changes in laws, and resources as well as support from the community, and the clients they served with a block party.
"Everyone has just been really incredible to work with and so to be able to be here 50 years later and to have done all the things we've been able to do and to continue this really important work is just a milestone really wanted to honor,” said Boesdorfer.
The Friendship Center’s Block Party is Thursday August 12th, from 5 to 8 p.m.
In 2019 the Friendship Center provided nearly 11-thousand nights of shelter to 144 families and children fleeing violence and in the first half of 2020 provided about 4-thousand nights of shelter to 34 adults and 29 children.