La Casa de las Madres has been helping domestic violence victims in San Francisco for years by providing a safe place to find support. After three moves in 20 years, the group finally has a permanent home to operate in The City’s South of Market neighborhood.
City leaders and staff from La Casa held a ribbon-cutting Thursday to celebrate the new drop-in counseling center at 1269 Howard St.
Kathy Black, La Casa’s executive director, said property owners of the organization’s previous locations chose not to renew leases, forcing staff to repeatedly seek out new places to provide services.
That was until Black was able to convince the property owner of 1269 Howard St. to sell the property to La Casa. With the help of a $1 million award from The City’s Nonprofit Sustainability Initiative, the organization was able to purchase the permanent space.
“It keeps nonprofits like La Casa (from) having to move further and further out of the hub of where we are needed the most.”
Mayor London Breed said the initiative is designed to help nonprofits just like La Casa buy property so they can continue their work with a sense of security.
Applauding the important work La Casa was doing for victims of domestic abuse victims, Breed said:
“We want to make sure that not only are people held accountable who are victimizing people, but that the survivors get the support and resources they need.”
Cassandra Poggi is just one of thousands that La Casa has helped.
Poggi said she had been in an abusive relationship with her partner for nearly two years, but as is commonly the case, the relationship started out well.
“He said all the right things at the right times. He was good to me and I started to fall for him.”
Describing what she endured when the relationship took a toxic turn, Poggi said:
“The abuse was constantly happening at all hours. I lost count of the slaps and the shoves and the punches. He then would abuse me sexually. Those were the darkest and loneliest days of my life.”
Poggi said she finally ran away after a particularly bad night of abuse where she nearly blacked out. She ran out into the streets and suddenly remembered the name La Casa from a domestic violence prevention presentation.
As Poggi was on the streets that night, she said she found a garage and tucked herself into a dark corner to search for the group’s contact information on her phone. She recalled telling the person who answered the call that she had been abused — she was given an undisclosed location of a shelter belonging to La Casa.
“The comfort and security that La Casa gave me that night is so invaluable that I’ll never be able to put into words how much it means to me.”
She hopes by sharing her story, she can prevent other people from having to experience what she went through.
Interim District Attorney Suzy Loftus recalls working on domestic abuse cases as a prosecutor in the DA’s Office and said it was unlike any other crime she had prosecuted.
“What I was asking someone to do, I was picking up the phone and asking them to come in and testify against someone who they either loved at that moment or at some point loved, or thought they loved. My job was to encourage them to come in and testify against that person and encourage them to be cross examined. And we know what that looks like, don’t we?”
Loftus said what victims need most is someone to advocate and help them through the process, as La Casa does.
“La Casa is a bright light that in that darkness. This beautiful new building — their new home — is a bright light.”
If you or someone you know is being abused, please call 911 if it is an emergency. If you are in crisis, La Casa is available by phone call or text 24/7 and can provide emergency shelter if needed. By phone, adults can call 1-877-503-1850 and teens can call 1-877-923-0700. Anyone can text 415-200-3575 at any time for help.
Jerold serves as a reporter and San Francisco Bureau Chief for SFBay covering transportation, City Hall, and the Mayor's Office in San Francisco. His work on transportation has been recognized by the San Francisco Press Club. Born and raised in San Francisco, he graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in journalism. Jerold previously wrote for the San Francisco Public Press, a nonprofit, noncommercial news organization. When not reporting, you can find Jerold taking Muni to check out new places to eat in the city.