Making a Difference West Edition

MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Jenesse Center offers support for domestic violence victims

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — For more than three decades, Jenesse Center has provided victims of domestic violence and their children with a comprehensive centralized base of support that is culturally responsive and ensures their transition from immediate crisis to stability and self-sufficiency.

Founded in 1980, Jenesse is the oldest domestic violence intervention program in South Los Angeles and its innovative and culturally competent service model has been recognized locally, nationally and internationally as redefining domestic violence intervention through a continuum of services that includes emergency shelter, transitional housing, direct services and outreach and prevention strategies.

In fact, the organization is one of the only domestic violence intervention programs with an education center that provides life skills, mental health and vocational training to clients; and an in-house legal services program that takes care of all Jenesse’s clients legal needs free of charge.

Since 2001, the center has operated a domestic violence clinic at the Inglewood Courthouse that serves more than 1,500 community members per year. Under the leadership of staff attorney Alyson Messenger, the organization’s monthly IMPACT LA and Unite for Families clinics has ensured more than 600 community members have received face-to-face time with attorneys from some of the most prestigious law firms in Los Angeles.

“Jenesse is more than a shelter,” said Karen Earl, chief executive officer. “We see ourselves as a family institute that works to heal families and connect communities.

“For so long we just took for granted that every organization did what we do until it was pointed out to us that hardly anyone was offering such a holistic approach to services that literally gave clients everything they needed to succeed where they live. While we have expanded the scope of our work, we were founded as a grassroots organization and we have always just seen the needs of our clients and worked very hard to provide much needed services to a population that has traditionally been either underserved or unserved.”

Jenesse implements dozens of culturally competent programs and services each year and uses community outreach and education strategies to prevent violence by transforming public perception as it relates to violence in the home. Its emergency and direct services reach 2,500 victims annually, while 10,000 families benefit from its prevention and outreach strategies.

“There are so many ramifications to our community as a result of domestic violence that most people do not think about,” said Debra Ward, director of strategic development and innovative programs. “For example, the intersection of [domestic violence] and health is real — hypertension, heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, chronic reproductive issues and so on — really affect the quality of life for women, men and children suffering from the effects of violence.

“One of the ways that we have addressed this intersection is to partner with local health care providers to educate them on how to service this population and to let them know that we are a referral for any patient they may see in need of domestic violence intervention.”

Earl said that Jenesse’s work will continue to extend far beyond shelter walls. For the past decade, the organization’s Jeneration J initiative has educated youth on healthy relationships while training them to be peer-to-peer mentors and domestic violence advocates, while the organization’s outreach and training department trains business and organizations and their employees on how to recognize when clients and employees are victims of domestic violence and provides intervention strategies.

The organization is also expanding its faith-based initiative that is bringing together clergy from throughout Los Angeles to discuss ways that the faith-based community can address the topic of domestic violence with their congregation.

The outreach and education strategy is part of the center’s strategic plan to ensure that domestic violence is seen as a community, public health and social justice issue(s) as opposed to “family business.”

“For far too long our community has believed that what happens in the home should stay in the home,” Earl said. “However, if there is one thing that I have learned doing this work is that what leaves the home enters the world. As we look forward to forty years and beyond in this community we want to make sure that our families have peace in their own homes and can thrive in ways that create a happier and healthier community for generations to come.”

INFORMATION BOX

Chief Executive Officer: Karen Earl

Years of Operation: 37

Annual budget: Not Available

Number of Employees: 50