MAKING A DIFFERENCE
By Darlene Donloe
The Jenesse Center, a Los Angeles-based domestic violence prevention and intervention organization, is celebrating its 40th year of providing life-saving, culturally appropriate services to the Los Angeles community.
This year’s anniversary theme is “Heroes,” which pays homage to the organization’s donors, supporters and volunteers.
Created by five Black women who were domestic violence survivors themselves, the Jenesse Center’s mission is to provide victims of domestic violence with a comprehensive, centralized base of support that is culturally responsive and ensures the transition from immediate crisis to stability and self-sufficiency.
“I am so proud of Jenesse staff who have worked tirelessly through this pandemic,” said Karen Earl, the organization’s CEO. “We’re celebrating a significant milestone. It has been 40 years. We’re excited to spotlight those who have traveled the journey with us over this unforgettable 40 years of service.”
Earl said the center had been working on an appropriate and worthy celebration of its 40th anniversary for more than two years.
“COVID changed everything,” said Earl, who started with the organization as a volunteer. “There would have been a party and reception where we would have lifted up the names of our heroes. So now we are celebrating by acknowledging and lifting up the names of the heroes — but virtually. We want to highlight their stories. So many people have been stepping up. We are doing this digitally and through social media. We’re still going to produce an official 40th-anniversary book.”
Plans for youth events are still in the works.
“Our ‘Raise Your Voice for Peace’ singing competition scheduled for November 14, will now be virtual,” Earl said. “We are changing it to a year of recognition and celebrating the fact that we have resources to help and change our community.”
“Raise Your Voice for Peace” is a vocal competition for youth 13 to 19 years old, performing original or covers of positive, uplifting songs with no profanity.
Since its inception, Jenesse has sought to prevent and end the cycle of domestic violence through education, public awareness and outreach initiatives, public policy and advocacy strategies, and innovative collaborations with key partners.
“Ours is a program in the community making a difference 24 hours a day, providing comprehensive service to families in crisis,” Earl said. “We have clients who can tell the story. Jenesse is a wonderful place serving a marginalized community and population with programs that are first class. We provide shelter, counseling, entrepreneurship and youth prevention.”
There are no cookie-cutter programs for Jenesse clients. Each program is individualized.
Clients can stay sheltered from 30 days up to two years, depending on their needs.
“The staff focuses on the progress in conjunction with the client’s goals,” Earl said. “Everybody doesn’t need two years. It depends on the needs of the clients. We continue to work with some clients even after they have left the shelter. While they are with us, our clients don’t just sit around all day. There is work happening to make them self-sufficient.”
In order to make that happen, Earl said the center prides itself on having a competent and professional staff.
“You have to have experts and clinical behavioral staff, but after that, you have to have compassion,” Earl said. “Our clients have to know that we care and we understand culturally as well. We have a lens for communities of color. We want to understand an individual’s specific needs. It’s important. The center makes sure the services are comprehensive and that the clients feel wanted.”
Earl said people do not fully understand the impact of domestic violence.
“There needs to be an understanding of domestic violence and how it affects people in various ways,” Earl said. “Poverty, racism, police brutality and economic insecurity all play a factor, and then, on top of that, you talk about somebody hitting somebody. You have to come up with a community strategy.”
Earl, whose mother is a survivor of domestic violence, said it’s important to change the narrative.
“You have to think about how domestic violence impacts kids and the moms who can’t go to work,” Earl said. “Having peace in the home is a civil rights issue. We have to start prioritizing our families. It’s important how you talk to people. You never want to leave blood on the floor.”
Throughout its 40-year history, Earl said she’s proud of the Jenesse Center’s “integrity and ability to do what we say.”
“Our vision is perfect,” she said. “I’m proud of the work we do, telling our story, learning to share our expert work, getting results, and talking about what we know to be the truth.”
Earl wants everyone to understand that the Jenesse Center, which recently received $500,000 from the Roth Family Foundation, is more than just a shelter refuge for women, girls, men, and boys.
Gil Garcetti, president of the Roth Family Foundation Board of Trustees said, “Family violence has always been a deep concern of our foundation. The COVID crisis has added stress for all families, but especially for those families experiencing family violence. The need today to help these families is greater than it was pre-COVID and we must all help.”
“What people need to understand is that domestic violence might be the reason women and children and men and anyone else show up at Jenesse, but once they are there, we take a comprehensive look and ensure that the woman, girl, or whoever it is, comes out whole,” Earl said. “It’s not just about the shelter. That’s the kind of life-changing work we do. People don’t understand what domestic violence really is. We’re helping folks understand. It’s individual, specific and global.”
“Making a Difference” is a weekly feature profiling organizations that are serving their communities. To propose a “Making a Difference” profile, send an email to email@example.com.