GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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January 25, 2013

HAWC shelter still closed in DCF dispute

SALEM — The North Shore’s only shelter devoted specifically to victims of domestic violence has been closed for more than two months, with no date set to reopen.

The director of the Salem-based HAWC — which also raises funds and serves victims in Gloucester and across Cape Ann — laid blame for the closure on a lack of clarity over the legal process for removing residents and whether the facility is considered a housing program or a clinical program. The agency’s acronym Healing Abuse, Working for Change.

“My understanding is the reason is related to the need for clear, statewide termination and appeal policies for shelter guests,” Candace Waldron wrote in an email.

But a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Children and Families, which oversees funding for the shelter, said the facility remains closed in order to complete retraining of staff, as well as “trauma debriefing” for employees who say they were affected by allegations of abuse made by several former shelter guests.

A state investigation cleared the shelter of abuse allegations, but ordered new training for the staff.

“The shelter’s reopening has been delayed in order to provide trauma debriefing for all of the staff that were involved with the recent allegations brought against HAWC,” said the spokeswoman, Cayenne Isaksen. “Additionally, they are being trained to create a structure within the organization to ensure proper supervision is provided and that each staff member has the tools they need to continue to promote trauma-informed services, which will benefit future program participants, as well.”

After a series of emails and calls over two days from a reporter at the Salem News, sister newspaper to the Times, both women said Thursday that they are now discussing a possible reopening of the shelter “soon.”

The HAWC shelter came under scrutiny last April after attorneys from Neighborhood Legal Services representing six shelter residents sent a letter to the Department of Children and Families alleging a “climate of abuse” and retaliation against residents.

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