RENO, Nevada (KOLO) – Victims of domestic violence are now at risk of eviction, after a Washoe County District Court judge ordered the closure of Northern Nevada’s largest emergency shelter.
Judge David Hardy ordered the nonprofit to close its safe house by August 15. Safe Embrace (SE) applied for a Special Use Permit (SUP) to perform installation updates, but Hardy refused.
It started after the City of Sparks approved an expansion to the shelter in 2018.
According to a lawsuit filed a year later, the city admitted that the property had been wrongly classified as a group home – suggesting a small number of residents – instead of a social assistance service, help social or charitable use. According to court documents, none of these uses are permitted within the property’s zoning district.
“We have had a legal license since 2001,” said Afshan West, Executive Director of SE. “It was only the extension request license, so I can see the revocation of that part but not the full shelter.”
However, where a building permit is void, a subsequent certificate of occupancy is also void and revocable.
Owners in the area claim that since the expansion there have been more problems. Including the sounds of matches and barking, police presence and damaged roads.
Client Judson Parkin told KOLO8 News Now that these claims are hearsay and that life in the safe house is peaceful.
“It’s not a crazy party environment, it’s people wanting a better life,” he said.
Parkin has been married for 15 years and says his relationship has steadily deteriorated.
“Where do I start? Physical, emotional, financial, sexual abuse, whatever you…that I would imagine and experience as a classic form of abuse,” he said.
When men are victims of domestic violence, they usually find it difficult to ask for help. For him, the realization came after the violence reached his children.
“It was April 2021 and my wife had just assaulted my daughter and that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. There’s this misconception that it’s basically because I’m physically able to defend myself that I would.
Living in Oregon at the time, he went to Project Dove, a nonprofit that helps victims of domestic violence, where he heard about SE.
“They had encouraged me to reach out,” Parkin said.
After a few weeks he was admitted to the safe house, where he says his children have made tremendous progress.
“They talk about cooking with people, playing with the other kids who were there. Great memories that probably wouldn’t be possible in a typical shelter,” Parkin said.
While no longer in the safe house, he worries for others like him who are now at risk of deportation.
“Our clients, they’re scared, they’re worried, they don’t know what the future holds for them,” West said.
West reassured his clients that they will not be homeless and that they have the support of the community and other organizations like the Domestic Violence Resource Center (DVRC).
Executive Director Kristen Kennedy said closing the safe house could increase pressure on their resources, at a time when they have seen increased needs.
“A few weeks ago we had a defender who was on call…and got 52 calls in one weekend,” she said. “Last year alone, Safe Embrace provided 45 hundred bed nights for victim-survivors, so potentially this could happen to us.”
One thing about West is the ten children currently at the shelter, who she says have been enrolled in the nearby school.
SE is disappointed with the City of Sparks and Washoe County as it appears the nonprofit is taking the brunt. They wish another solution could have been found as the disputed addition/expansion was necessary to serve and serve the LGBTQ+ community.
In the past, complainants have said they support the shelter’s mission but simply don’t want it in their neighborhood.
Parkin is part of SE’s rapid housing program and now lives in an apartment with her children.
The organization will meet with its attorney on Monday to plan next steps. While they continue to provide services, they have stopped accepting new clients at their shelter.
KOLO8 News Now has contacted the owners’ attorney, but at the time of this publication has not received a response.
DVRC is ready to help and asks those in need to call their 24-hour hotline at (775) 329-4150 or text DV HELP or DV SAFE to 839863.
Safe Embrace asks its supporters to submit this supporting statement and email it to [email protected]
Copyright 2022 KOLO. All rights reserved.