Empower Yolo's mission is to promote safe, healthy, and resilient communities through community outreach and educational programs about available resources to promote health, stability, and self-sufficiency for individuals and families.
Empower Yolo's confidential shelter, the Wallace and Vannucci Shelter opened in November 1999 and is the only facility in Yolo County serving victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. The thirty-five bed facility is staffed 24 hours a day. While the shelter is known for its invaluable safety net from violence, the less-known objective of the shelter program is to educate, empower, and support survivors in healing and rebuilding their lives free from violence. More than just a temporary refuge, the shelter also provides a comprehensive empowerment program designed to assist survivors in becoming independent and free from violence. Programs offered at the shelter include case management, safety planning, weekly goal-setting and process groups, parenting classes, economic empowerment and life skills development classes, art therapy, and domestic violence education and support groups. Individual, on-site therapy is offered, as well as on-site legal and restraining order assistance.
This year, we are embarking on a new campaign called 'Gather Around Our Kitchen' to raise funds to remodel our shelter kitchen which has not been updated in nearly 20 years. In most homes, the kitchen is a focal point, a place where families begin and end their day, a place to gather around and take in the comforting smells of a favorite meal. Kitchens are a familiar place, even in unfamiliar surroundings.
However, the current kitchen has not been updated since it was built; it does not provide adequate space or storage for the many families using it. The space is cramped, cabinets are worn out and appliances are old and in constant need of repair.
The new kitchen facility will dramatically improve our ability to support individuals and families who come to us at the most difficult times of their lives. Our residents will know that this is a place that was built with them in mind, a clean and comfortable place to prepare food and share meals with their families providing comfort and healing for all survivors and their children.
Last year, 238 women, men and children stayed in our shelter for a total of 10,932 bed nights (over 30,000 meals). Please help us make this inviting kitchen a reality for the families served by Empower Yolo.
Teresa's Story - a story of empowerment and hope
Teresa came to Empower Yolo's safe house with nothing, but her children and the clothes on her back. She left her husband and father of her children after years of abuse. She says, "it was hard to come to the shelter because it meant it was the last straw; you have to go down hard if you are going to a shelter and leaving everything behind." Teresa came to the shelter with her 3 children feeling alone, scared and broken.
Even though it was the worse time in her life, Teresa fondly remembers her time at the shelter. She says, "my kids and I were scared, but the staff at the shelter were awesome." She thinks of all the wonderful things they did for her while she was there. She remembers the shelter was a place to stay that was safe, a place full of love. She remembers that they made sure her children had shoes when they didn't have any; that they took care of her children when she couldn't; that they played with them and cared for them and showed them love and compassion. She says, "they held my kids when they were scared and when I couldn't."
The shelter was also a place where she could heal and try to move forward; and a place to work towards rebuilding her life. She received many services including counseling and legal services. She says, "they let you know that they are there to fight for you; everybody at the shelter was there to fight for me and because of that it gave me the strength to give my kids the life they deserve, and give me the life that I deserve."
After her stay at the shelter Teresa made a new life for herself and her children. She got a great job, worked hard and became an engineer. Her children are grown now and are living happy, healthy lives.
Empower Yolo's Teen Education Program is focused on promoting healthy relationships and preventing abuse in teen relationships. This is done through student/community presentations and weekly groups meeting in local schools. Presentations cover a range of issues including abuse types, date rape, predatory drugs, teen dating violence, healthy relationships, and bystander intervention. "My Strength", a program for young men operates under the motto "My Strength Is Not for Hurting". My Strength groups are facilitated in local high schools by Empower Yolo's Prevention Education Coordinator. The group meets weekly throughout the school year and addresses positive and negative forms of masculinity - with a goal of educating young men on how to use their strength in a positive way. This group aims to prevent violence against women before it starts by engaging young men as allies to fight against sexual violence and domestic/teen dating violence. "Be Strong" is a development program for young women, which builds on concepts of womanhood, respect, and positive relationships as a strategy for health promotion and violence prevention. "Our Strength" is our eight week gender inclusive group which covers topics like healthy relationships, affirmative consent, and bystander intervention. These groups are held during class time or as lunch time groups.
- In the 2016-2017 school year Empower Yolo provided prevention education to 3,635 students in Yolo county schools.
- These presentations were held for multiple teachers and students at: Pioneer High School, Woodland High School, Holmes Jr. High School, Emerson Jr. High School, Harper Jr. High school, Davis High School, Da Vinci High School, Cache Creek High School and Esparto High School.
- We also coordinated "My Strength" groups in four Yolo County Schools including: Woodland High School, Pioneer High School, Holmes Jr. High School, Emerson Jr. High School and Cache Creek High School.
- In addition, we facilitated "Be Strong" groups at Holmes Jr. High and Emerson Jr. High.
- Finally, we facilitated "Our Strength" gender inclusive prevention program in Davis at Harper Junior High School.
- In all, we facilitated 24 groups of eight weeks or more in Yolo county schools in the 2016-2017 school year.
Unfortunately our jails are designed to hold criminals, not treat victims, yet the detention center population is overwhelming made up of victims who have had little access to mental health services and trauma informed care. While the number of women involved in the criminal justice system continues to grow, the services that would reduce the recidivism rate are declining. Yolo County funding for individual counseling and discharge planning sessions offered by Empower Yolo at the Detention Center was eliminated in 2013. Although our services were greatly reduced, Empower Yolo remains committed to providing services. Empower Yolo provides two weekly domestic violence support groups, two sexual assault support groups, individual peer counseling and discharge planning. Empower Yolo provides advocacy and support which can include coordinating with the Public Defender's Office, District Attorney's Office, Victim Services, Alta Regional, and Health and Human Services, as well as court accompaniment and transportation.
- In 2016, Empower Yolo provided 124 support groups at the Yolo County detention center to 99 victims of domestic violence or sexual assault.
- We also provided counseling sessions to 23 individuals (two youth) for 60 sessions.
"Promotoras for Active Living" (PAL) project, which trains lay community members to deliver health education, family support to family, friends and other community members and to connect them to available health and social services in Yolo County. 'Promotoras' are recruited from existing Women's Support Groups. They are lay persons - the majority of whom are low-income, Latino and Spanish-speaking - that receive training on relevant health issues for the Latino community and learn how to access health and social services in the local region. The "promotoras" through community outreach are able to bridge the gap between hard-to-reach Latino residents and service providers. Meanwhile, they gain tangible skills in health education, resource and referral, insurance enrollment, and public speaking, thereby enhancing their employability.
- Empower Yolo's Promotoras for Active Living serves the Davis, Woodland, Knights Landing, Dunnigan, and West Sacramento areas.
- They are bilingual individuals who educate Yolo County's population of low-income families.
- While the project serves anyone requesting services, 95% of our clients are low to very low-income, and 70% have limited English proficiency.
ASSETs (After School Safety and Enrichment for Teens) program serves both Woodland Senior High and Pioneer High School students. ASSETs partners with schools and communities to provide academic support and safe, constructive alternatives for high school students. More than just an after school program, Woodland ASSETs team creates genuine connections with high school youth and families and provides unique opportunities for the development of life and leadership skills. We also provide family literacy services to the parents of our high school students. Our program operates after school, weekends, summer, intersession, and vacation periods.
- In the 2016-2017 school year, 1540 high school students at both Woodland and Pioneer High attended the ASSETs program at least one time. In 2017 high school students at both Woodland and Pioneer High attended the ASSETs program for a total of 46,545 times.