Quarterly funding has been restored for Ketchikan’s Women in Safe Homes emergency shelter, but the state Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault has not lifted the group’s probation.
WISH Executive Director Beth Bogarde and Board President Karla Reinhardt were in Juneau for the most recent Alaska Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault meeting.
WISH and its probationary status were on the agenda.
“We were able to speak during the public comment portion,” Reinhardt said. “They went into executive session to discuss WISH.”
Reinhardt said that executive session lasted three hours on that day alone, then the council recessed until the following morning.
“They had to go back into executive session to finish,” she said. “I think it was about an hour after that and we were called in to hear what was decided.”
The decision was to restore quarterly funding for WISH, while still maintaining the shelter’s probationary status through the end of June.
WISH was placed on probation last fall after a site visit and program review. The site-visit report noted procedural issues, such as excluding clients who were under the influence, a lack of cooperation with other local service agencies, a violation of record-keeping regulations and a lack of training for board and staff.
Remediation steps required by CDVSA include establishing a planning process, improving training procedures for board and staff, establishing operating agreements with other service agencies; and updating the grievance process for employees who have been let go.
The probation also changed WISH’s funding from quarterly forward funding to monthly reimbursement. Executive Director Bogarde says that caused some problems for the organization.
“Because of the requirement to have expenses submitted on the first of every month, and of course the month closes at the end of every month, you can’t logistically get everything done in one day,” she said.
Plus some bills are on a different schedule, and fall due in the middle of the month. And then there was the need to wait for the reimbursement.
So, the decision to put WISH back on quarterly forward funding was good news for the local domestic violence shelter. And, Bogarde and Reinhardt say the board and staff have been working through the remediation steps.
A follow-up site review by CDVSA took place recently.
“And they stated after going through all the personnel records, they stated that they were in excellent form,” Bogarde said.
She added that the new training documentation WISH has come up with received particularly high praise: “The training forms and tracking of employee training, they are going to look at that to be a model for the state.”
Bogarde says that’s what was reported to the board following the site visit, but the written report has not yet been released. They expect it will be completed soon.
In the meantime, she says WISH is working on its remediation steps. The board is changing its grievance policies for employees, for example, opening it up to temporary as well as permanent positions, and removing the time limit for grievances; Bogarde has done some job-shadowing, as required by CDVSA; and the board is waiting for a list of approved trainers to schedule its own training.
Bogarde says this probationary period has been stressful for WISH staff.
“Maybe it is with all site reviews, I’m not certain, but total attention has been focused on anything negative,” she said. “No credence has been given to anything positive. That’s very demoralizing on a staff.”
But, once this stressful probation period is over, will there be a silver lining? In the end, will WISH be better because of this process?
Bogarde said she thinks so.
“If it helps our procedures, if it helps us be more informed, more connected with the community, I think that’s a healthy thing,” she said.
Another silver lining: throughout the probationary process, Bogarde and Reinhardt say WISH has heard a lot of support from many people in Ketchikan who value the service provided by Women in Safe Homes, and want the organization to succeed.