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Getting help and getting it fast: How one program is making more shelter space for abuse victims

SAFE offers support and services for victims of abuse. However, typically, its shelter is full. A new program will allow people to get help faster than before.

AUSTIN, Texas — As Austin's population continues to increase, SAFE said the need for its help is growing too.

"Law of averages," said Melinda Cantu, the vice president of housing and support services at SAFE, "more people, more potential for violence and abuse to happen."

The new Bridge to Safety program is expected to help SAFE handle the growth.

"It’s a program where we can immediately support somebody who is calling in or chatting on our SAFEline," said Cantu. 

SAFEline is a 24-hour confidential hotline for people seeking help with sexual or domestic violence, child abuse, human trafficking or parenting support. 

It's available by phone, text, or online chat:

Advocates can help safety plan and connect people to resources in the community and at SAFE, like the Bridge to Safety program.

RELATED: 'You will die without me': Abuse and its connection to becoming homeless

"We can help people get out of town; we can help people change locks; we can help people do any number of things very quickly because sometimes shelter can take a while and most of the time we’re full," Cantu said.

Cantu said there is typically a wait list to get into the shelter. 

SAFE said the program will help prevent future victims of sexual or domestic violence, human trafficking or child abuse. Cantu said Bridge to Safety will also help decrease the need for emergency shelter.

RELATED: October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

"What’s going to be the next thing, the best thing for that particular person because our shelter, we haven’t added beds in over a couple of decades, and Austin has grown tremendously," said Cantu. "So we really are trying to figure out what we can do to help serve as many people as possible because ultimately we don’t want anyone to get hurt."

Since the program started in April, SAFE reported it has helped around 265 adults. Cantu said if you count the children in the households, then SAFE has helped more than 500 people. 


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