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Domestic violence survivors seek emergency housing through Las Vegas nonprofit amid increase calls for service

Published: Mar. 8, 2022 at 7:19 PM PST|Updated: Mar. 14, 2022 at 5:23 AM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - Within the last year and a half, Southern Nevadans have escaped violent situations at home, according to the nonprofit SafeNest.

SafeNest CEO Liz Ortenburger said they are spending more money per month than in year’s past on the group’s confidential hotel program. She said they are spending roughly $30,000 a month in hotel bills to covertly house domestic violence survivors.

“It’s been the last year and a half that we’ve seen an explosion in the hotel and the need, the overall need for housing, for shelter,” Ortenburger said.

SafeNest prioritizes these hotel room reservations for domestic violence survivors who are at greatest risk and need immediate, emergency, temporary housing.

The stressors of the pandemic, Ortenburger said, have been putting Southern Nevadans at greater risk for domestic violence.

“80% of the domestic violence for the state is happening inside Clark County. So we were already at high levels, but then you add these layers and layers and layers of stress on top of that, and you have an entire population that’s prone to using violence that’s all set off at the same time,” she said.

Ortenburger urges anyone to reach out for help, and encouraged loved ones or abusers to do so.

The news comes as the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said they went out on nearly 69,416 domestic-related calls in 2021. That’s higher than the years prior: 63,682 in 2020 and 65,335 in 2019, according to police.

We spoke with Elynne Greene, manager of the Victim Services Unit at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, about why she thinks this is.

“You’re still seeing a lot of people working remotely, so now you’re starting to hear the noise next door. We’ve educated the community, if you see something say something. It’s not just about terrorism. It’s about what’s happening in our own community,” Greene said.

Ortenburger said the key is reaching out for help and involving people who can do just that.

“But this can end before police are called. This can end before somebody’s in jail, or going through a legal process, or a victim is in the hospital. This can end by friends or family saying, ‘I heard what you said about your wife or your girlfriend or your husband or your family or your uncle,’ or -- whatever your dynamics are. ‘That language doesn’t have a place here. I want to support you and help you. What is it that you need from me to support you in this relationship, because what I won’t condone, is that.’”

Typically, school staff will be the first to notice if a child is coming from a home where abuse is happening.

But even though schools are back in-person, Greene said with the pandemic’s disruptions and related stressors, she believes it has become more difficult than in year’s past for teachers to notice or identify different behavior in kids.

“Little Johnny is suddenly acting different, but with all of these stressors, we can’t say little Johnny is acting different because something is going on at home. We now have, ya know, war, and escalating economic concerns, and we’re still recovering from the pandemic; so there’s so many factors, that it becomes really difficult even for the educators, that are finally face-to-face with their students, to identify what’s going on,” said Greene.

That’s why she said it’s important for the community as a whole to pay attention to warning signs, and look after children and others, during this turbulent time.

Metro’s domestic violence services unit can be reached at (702) 828-4451. People who reach out, Greene said, will not be required to write an arrest report unless they’d like to.

SafeNest has a 24/7 hotline, (702) 646-4981, that can be reached via phone or text.