Empowering Women to Live Free from Violence
Alianza is based in Hampden County and serves Hampden County and parts of Hampshire County.
Established in 1980, Alianza DV Services, formerly known as Womenshelter Compañeras, has worked tirelessly to empower women and their families to live independently and free from domestic violence.
The need for a domestic violence shelter in Holyoke was the brainchild of Jane Sanders, who at the time worked for the Hampden County Women’s Center in Springfield. Two other women –Jane Frey and Jane Schraft – soon joined Jane, and in the fall of 1979 the “three Janes” began organizing community meetings to explore establishing a shelter in Holyoke for abused women.
Out of these meetings grew a diverse, grass-roots group of citizens who began gathering statistics on local domestic violence incidents. Equipped with the data and letters of support from 30 social service agencies, the group successfully secured a block grant to purchase the house that would become the shelter. The first safe domestic violence shelter opened in December 1980, housing women only. During the first year of operation, Alianza provided shelter for 131 women and responded to 650 calls from women in domestic violence situations.
From the beginning, the vision for Alianza was comprehensive; its founders put into place a confidential, safe shelter, a 24-hour emergency Hotline, a referral system for medical help, childcare, housing and legal advocacy, and they made community education and outreach a key component of the mission. The founders understood the importance of empowering survivors as a central philosophy. “Over time survivors have confirmed that what they need is support and the resources to achieve their own goals and violence-free relationships,” said Carmen Nieves, Alianza’s Executive Director.
Since its founding, Alianza has sheltered more than 10,000 women and children and assisted 22,000 others through their community-based and court-based support programs. Annually, they house approximately 90 to 100 women and 140 children in confidential shelters. Alianza serves all of Hampden County and parts of Hampshire County. Recognizing that domestic violence not only affects women and children, the agency also serves men and extended family members through its community-based programs. There are now specialized services for domestic violence survivors over the age of 50, for those with specialized needs, and for teens and young adults who need support navigating dating and intimate partner relationships. Programs and services are conducted in English, Spanish and Russian.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men report experiencing physical violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime, and intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime in this country. Alianza supports people of all genders, ages, races, ethnicities, cultures, sexual preferences, and income levels who do not feel safe with an intimate partner, family member, or caregiver. “No matter where survivors are in their journey, we will support them. Some people stay with their abuser. Some leave. Some interact with Alianza for years before they make a decision. We do not judge anyone for their choices; only the survivor knows what they want and need. Our job is to help them stay safe and move towards successes they define for themselves”, says Nieves
Currently, Alianza is in need of outreach volunteers to assist at information tables at community events such as fairs, festivals, farmers markets, and other venues where they have a presence. They are also looking for volunteers to pick up donations from area businesses, civic, school or church groups, or individuals, and deliver them to Alianza’s main office in Holyoke during their popular Sponsor A Family holiday campaign. Alianza also seeks to expand its Board with new members, year-round and welcomes committed individuals who share our passion for supporting and empowering domestic violence survivors and who bring a variety of skills and experience to the organization. To learn more about how to support the agency, its services, and its volunteer programs please visit their website at alianzadv.org, or contact Alianza’s Director of Development, Pamela Barnes, at email@example.com.