Working together: Asian Family Support Services of Austin and SAFE

Written by Piper Stege Nelson

Rachel emigrated from Venezuela as a refugee with her husband and small children – but the violence did not end when she arrived in the United States. Rachel was a domestic violence survivor, and her husband’s abuse continued as the family began its new life.

Rachel turned to Asian Family Support Services of Austin (AFSSA), an incredible SAFE partner that is working to support survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and trafficking from local Asian and immigrant communities.

After talking with Rachel and triaging her basic needs, AFSSA referred her to SAFE, where she and her children lived for a few months in the Kelly White Family Shelter, and then moved into the Supportive Housing Program where they were able to live safely and independently in their own apartment for another year.

In the days and weeks and months after Rachel left her abusive husband, in addition to housing, SAFE provided her with case management and counseling, and her children attended school and daycare at SAFE. SAFE staff are experts at supporting survivors as they work toward health and healing.

But it was AFSSA that provided the culturally specific approach and basic needs that Rachel and her family so desperately needed. AFSSA worked to ensure that there was traditional food to eat in the shelter, which was very important to her.

AFSSA advocates engaged interpreters to help her access services and, because Rachel did not drive, transported her to and from appointments. They connected her with an immigration attorney who started her work permit process. She worked with AFSSA’s counselor, and their economic empowerment team helped her improve her English skills and secure employment.

During a time when everything was changing and up in the air, AFSSA provided Rachel with the holistic, culturally-grounded services she needed to feel more secure and begin healing. This is why SAFE is so honored to have such a strong partnership with AFSSA.

More about this powerful partnership

Originally Saheli, AFSSA was started in 1992 by South Asian volunteers who wanted to help other South Asians who were experiencing domestic violence. Recognizing the unique barriers faced by immigrant survivors – including limited English proficiency, isolation, fear of separation from their children, and lack of transportation – along with the imperative need for a culturally sensitive approach, SAFE (at the time SafePlace) supported AFSSA by providing office space, resources, and organizational development help.

AFSSA is now its own independent entity offering free, confidential services and community education for Asian and immigrant communities. They are grounded in cultural humility and work to meet communities where they are; AFSSA cultivates and highly values its partnerships with local immigrant communities – the partnerships that are so often key to violence prevention and lasting change. AFSSA works to focus on the specific and unique needs of the client, just as SAFE does.

AFSSA and SAFE partner in so many ways: We sit on the same domestic violence and sexual assault response task forces, share resources, and provide training to each other’s staff and volunteers on a regular basis.

But the most important collaboration is always with our shared clients, like Rachel.

Rachel is now living independently with her children in her own apartment and has a job that meets her family’s financial needs. SAFE helped make that happen by providing her a safe place to be during a vulnerable period, but AFSSA ensured that her specific cultural needs were recognized and met, thereby giving Rachel the chance to build a new life for her family as an immigrant and a survivor.