Finding Our Voices freedom-funding tops $100,000
More than $100,000 has been distributed from Finding Our Voices to bring safety, freedom, and comfort to Maine women and children survivors of domestic abuse through the group’s Get Out Stay Out Fund.
According to Patrisha McLean, president/founder of the grassroots survivor-powered nonprofit, in two years $113,640 was disbursed to 184 women from every county in Maine, about 80 percent of whom are moms of young children.
The money has mostly funded shelter, car, legal, utility, and food expenses to enable Maine women to flee domestic violence and take their first steps toward independence.
This includes short term emergency motel stays, apartment rent and security deposits; gas cards, car insurance, registration and repairs; legal assistance obtaining a restraining order and pushing back against attempts by a violent ex to get custody of the children as well as unsupervised visits with them.
“Our peer-to-peer funding,” said McLean, in a news release, “mitigates the financial abuse i.e. control that is a key factor in trapping women and children in dangerous family situations by providing the resources necessary to escape, and to stay gone.”
McLean said that with its trademark quick response the group has staved off evictions and in one case the repossession of a car scheduled for that afternoon. The car owner let Finding Our Voices know they were her “Hail Mary pass” to keep her job and chance of financial independence.
Last week, $380 from the fund took the lock off of a storage unit that contained all of a woman’s possessions including photos, artwork, and health records of her child and that would otherwise be lost forever. Her ex is facing numerous felony charges for a violent rampage during which he told this child “You will never see your mother alive again.” Last week the fund also provided diapers and formula for a woman who fled with her infant after her ex who was the sole support for them “strangled me then stood on my neck with all of his weight. “Anything,” she told Finding Our Voices, "and I mean anything is appreciated as my whole life has changed in the blink of an eye.”
Most disbursements come with a personal message of sister-support as well as helpful books and a natural, healing balm created especially for Finding Our Voices by Tracey Wylie on her Union farm.
Finding Our Voices works with a wide and growing network of referral partners from across the state for this funding, including homeless shelters, domestic abuse agencies, district attorney offices, Maine Association for New Americans, therapists, Maine Behavioral Health, Community Action Partners, recovery networks, and employee navigation departments at such companies as Goodwill.
According to McLean, the Get Out Stay Out fund was seeded in 2021 with a $50,000 grant from the Sunshine Lady Foundation. Boosts since then include private donations and grants from the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, 100-plus Women Who Care Southern Maine, and WEX Inc.
“We are working with a broken system,” a case manager with a social service agency wrote to Finding Our Voices after the group paid an apartment security deposit for their client. “So many people are frustrated with trying to get supports and feeling like failures or being humiliated in the process. Housing is such a need in all our communities. Transportation is getting worse and worse. And so on.
She added, “My client would be on the streets right now if not for the support of Finding Our Voices. After over a year of working with her, I have no doubt she will be successful. She just needed a hand up to get out. I can’t thank you enough for what you provide to our communities.”
Other Finding Our Voices programs include pro-bono dental care, weekly online support groups, and healing retreats and workshops with songwriting, memoir writing and horses. Finding Our Voices started in 2019 as an of exhibit of McLean’s photo portraits of survivors of domestic abuse and now these portraits of 45 survivors aged 18 to 83 including herself, her daughter, an incarcerated woman, and Governor Janet T. Mills are in downtown business windows and public bathrooms as posters all across the state.
For more information about Finding Our Voices visit https://findingourvoices.net.