Safe Embrace, Washoe County's largest safe house for victims of domestic and sexual violence, is currently facing a lawsuit that threatens to close the shelter.
A judge recently ordered a temporary cease and desist order to Safe Embrace, and ordered Washoe County to temporarily revoke the business license.
Safe Embrace is a shelter for victims of domestic and sexual violence and was established in 1994 as Victorious in His Sight, a faith-based organization, with the mission to provide support services to underserved populations, especially women of color.
In 2015, Safe Embrace became the only dual-focus shelter providing services to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. Last year, over 4,500 bed nights were provided in the safe house.
“Safe Embrace is currently a codefendant in a lawsuit, along with City of Sparks and Washoe County, which was filed in October of 2019,” says Executive Director Afshan West. “The shelter neighbors are attempting to have Safe Embrace’s shelter business license revoked. The lawsuit is based upon the City of Sparks improperly following procedures when the license was issued in 2017, which allowed the expansion from 18 beds to 32 beds,” explains West.
West mentions "We are working with the coalition and our sister agencies in the area to make sure that our clients do not end up homeless."
On June 20, 2022, Judge David Hardy issued a Writ of Mandamus (cease and desist order) to the shelter and ordered the county to revoke the shelter’s license temporarily.
Safe Embrace is currently working with Washoe County to expedite a Special Use Permit application, due to the essential work Safe Embrace provides to a vulnerable population in the Reno/Sparks community.
“Our staff at Safe Embrace prides itself in the inclusion and acceptance of all regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, disability, etc.,” says West. “We are finding it heartbreaking having to turn victims in need away, because of Judge David Hardy’s order for us to close our shelter.”
Safe Embrace has a contingency plan to continue providing shelter to current residents and new clients if the shelter is temporarily shut down. They are also working closely with the Nevada Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence to continue to provide essential services.
“The need to provide domestic and sexual violence services in Washoe County is extremely apparent. In the last fiscal year, Safe Embrace alone responded to 2,500 requests for services - almost 10 requests per day - and provided 5,200 bed nights in the shelter and 64 motel nights,” says West. “Services at Safe Embrace are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and extend beyond providing temporary housing to include free counseling services, educational funding, and housing and financial support services to survivors.”
Survivors who seek services at Safe Embrace need only to self-certify that they are a victim; there are no pre-conditions to receiving services. To learn more about the services Safe Embrace provides, please visit safeembrace.org.