More Help for Survivors During COVID Crisis

Council approves $800,000 in RISE funding to Survive2Thrive

Courtney Santana (Photo by John Anderson)

Amid Austin's ongoing efforts to provide COVID-19 relief through local nonprofits, the Survive2Thrive Foundation was awarded almost $1 million in city funding last week. At its May 21 meeting, City Council approved $800,000 in Relief in a State of Emergency (RISE) funding for the group, which assists displaced survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault. Survive2Thrive CEO Courtney Santana told the Chronicle that the organization has placed at least 80 clients – including around 30 families – in temporary hotel stays since May 11; seven survivors have received permanent housing in that time frame.

The additional funding will help continue these services, in addition to S2T's Seed a Survivor (SAS) Financial Stabilization Program, said Santana. "We're trying to get as much of this money [as possible] out there," said Santana. "Five to 10% is administrative, so literally $720,000 is going back into the community." The SAS Program offers financial support and a resource network to help qualifying survivors establish careers with job-skills training, improve their credit history, and establish a rental history. It serves participants who are not eligible for relief under the federal CARES Act, nor are receiving unemployment benefits, among other criteria.

As the Chronicle's previously reported, the COVID-19 crisis has compounded existing forces that often enable domestic violence (see "Local Nonprofits Adapt to Help People Survive Domestic Violence During COVID-19," News, May 8). Santana said the number of calls to S2T's 24/7 COVID-19 Domestic Vio­lence Phone Bank – available only to local law enforcement and approved referring agencies – has "gone up significantly" since its launch in early April, estimating some 300 calls.

S2T recently partnered with Texas Advocacy Project to further expand its services. TAP, which is based in Austin, is a statewide organization providing free legal services to survivors. Santana said the two organizations have formalized an agreement to assist S2T's clients specifically dealing with protective orders. Santana said the relationship between S2T and TAP is being tailored to address other legal issues that may be specific to survivors, such as the ramifications some may face when breaking a rental agreement. Santana explained, "How do we make it so that survivors can actually get out of the abusive situations without experiencing some sort of legal or financial detriment?"

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 800/787-7233. TAP’s free legal hotline is 512/225-9290. Get the application for S2T’s Seed a Survivor Program at

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