Getting Moving: Our VOICE Partners with Wheels4Hope

For many people in Buncombe County, transportation is a major barrier to accessing social services and getting daily tasks done, like getting to and from work.  For almost two-thirds (63 percent) of all people who utilize the ‘Asheville Redefines Transit’ (ART) bus system, this is their only option for transportation.  Most of these people (60 percent) also have to use the bus five to six days per week.  Many people use the bus to get to and from work, but have to take multiple bus lines and sometimes have to wait an hour or more for each bus.  The buses also do not run to more rural areas or run late at night, and only have limited Sunday routes, which creates further barriers to transportation, particularly for people who work at night such as the many hospitality employees in our community.  Even though ART helps to get people around, it does not have the capacity to support the high level of transportation needs that currently exist in our community.

That is why Our VOICE is extremely excited to now be partnering with Wheels4Hope!  Wheels4Hope is “a non-profit, faith-based car donation program that turns donated cars into local blessings.”  Their mission is “to provide affordable, reliable transportation to economically vulnerable families and individuals.”  Wheels4Hope repairs donated vehicles and sells them as ‘Program Cars’ to individuals and families referred to them by partner agencies.  The person pays $500 and is responsible for title and transfer fees, but the car is in good mechanical condition, worth $2,000-$4,000, and comes with a 6-month warranty.  All other vehicles that cannot be repaired into a program car are sold for parts or to the general public with all of the proceeds going directly back to Wheels4Hope’s mission.  The organization started in Raleigh in 2000, and since then they have expanded to the Greensboro and Asheville area, and have provided 2,786 program cars so far!

As a new partner agency, Our VOICE will now be able to refer survivors directly to Wheels4Hope for program cars.  This will greatly support the work that I do as a case manager here at Our VOICE.  The survivors we work with who are eligible for the program will now have access to a financially sustainable transportation resource that has the potential to make a dramatic positive impact on their daily lives.  Our goal is to empower survivors and help them to regain control after trauma, and Wheels4Hope will help Our VOICE do this in a very meaningful way for survivors who face transportation barriers.

Having the ability to go where you need to, when you need to get there, is something that a lot of us take for granted, but many of the survivors we work with struggle with transportation on a regular basis.  Wheels4Hope allows us to empower survivors in a new way, and connect them to a resource that helps establish a level of independence and control that could be a major part of their healing process.  We look forward to working with Wheels4Hope, and want to take this opportunity to say a big THANK YOU for everything that they do in our community!


Buncombe County Family Justice Center: A Path to Strength, Safety & Hope

With the recent violence here in Asheville, we are deeply saddened for the victims and their loved ones, but we are also hopeful that with the opening of the Family Justice Center this summer, we will continue to improve our community’s services to survivors and reduce sexual and domestic violence in Buncombe County.
What is a Family Justice Center?

The first Family Justice Center was created in San Diego in 2002, and the model has spread to many other communities throughout the United States, and even internationally. It is a “one-stop” center with a multi-disciplinary team to provide the comprehensive services that survivors need. A family justice center is a coordinated community response to sexual and domestic violence that brings together law enforcement, non-profits, and governmental agencies in collaboration to provide the best possible services to survivors. Here locally, these agencies will include Our VOICE, Helpmate, Asheville Police Department and Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office domestic and sexual violence units, Pisgah Legal Services, Forensic Nurse Examiners from Mission Hospital, and Health and Human Services.

Why This Model?
Family Justice Centers provide one location of comprehensive services for survivors, which makes the system less complicated to navigate. Survivors will not have to make as many phone calls, fill out as many referrals, or tell their story to as many people, which allows them to focus on their safety and healing process. The central location for services also provides greater opportunities for interagency communication and support. This creates a strong level of collaboration between each agency, which will help us to continue to improve our services to survivors. Below are the overall goals that we believe this model will help us to achieve in our community.
Goals of the FJC:
• Eliminate duplication
• Increase arrest and prosecution of offenders
• Reduce fear and anxiety for victims
• Increase victim safety
• Reduce sexual and domestic violence

The Family Justice Center will be located at 35 Woodfin Street, and will be opening later this summer. Stay tuned for more information about the Family Justice Center as the opening gets closer. We are continuing to work towards ending sexual violence in our community, and we are excited for the coordinated community response that the FJC will bring. Thank you for all of your support!

Our VOICE in 2016

Starting over, letting go, setting goals, resolutions and/or intentions… all very common themes for the month of January. Besides big milestones and life changes or events, January is a great time to create positive change and set measurable goals.

Here at Our VOICE, we certainly acknowledge January 1st. How each staff member recognizes the new year may look different: taking vacation/self-care, starting of a new fiscal year, approaching due dates, ending of school break, creating new Fitbit challenges, etc.; however, among all of our different personal goals and thoughts going into the new year, we all unite and share at least one intention: Ending sexual violence.

If you have ever set a goal before, then you know the importance of setting attainable goals. Nobody wants to set themselves up for failure. Right now you might be thinking: “Ending sexual violence? That’s impossible!” I will be honest, there was a time in my life when I too thought ending sexual assault and rape culture was an unreachable dream, but I am here to tell you it is not.

Wearing seatbelts felt like an impossible cultural shift. How can you change a cultural habit? Is it realistic to mandate whether people are going to wear their seatbelts or not? Well, mandates and laws are only a small step towards real change. Our language around car safety and the value we put on human lives is how our culture has shifted in relation to wearing seatbelts. Individuals decided their personal boundaries and values around wearing seatbelts, which mirrored positive behavior for young children. Those children grow up not even seeing another option; the consequences are not worth the risky behavior.

The consequences of not wearing your seatbelt can have traumatic impact on you and others, a trauma that can be prevented. Sexual violence is no different. It is 100% preventable.

Our new year’s intention is something that makes our office culture unique. We have so many dedicated and unique staff, volunteer advocates, and board members but we all share one passion. Ending rape culture and sexual violence is our common motivator, making Our VOICE driven, focused, and unstoppable.

This new space on our website is going to be a place where our staff, volunteers, board members, survivors, and community allies can share specific short-term goals, thoughts, actions, and feelings. We recognize we cannot achieve our long term goal without our community. Our blog will another forum to create thought and dialog, further connecting you to our cause and to the process of shifting our culture. Together we can end sexual violence!

—Caitlin is the Lead Counselor at Our VOICE. To learn more about our counseling services click here.