PUBLISHED: 3:49 PM on Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Executive director works to ensure stability of Women In Safe Homes
A brief on business with five questions
Dragon London is executive director of Women In Safe Homes, which has its office in Ketchikan and also serves Wrangell, Petersburg, Metlakatla and Prince of Whales Island. WISH started as a grassroots organization in the 1970s and provides support and education on abuse and violence.

What services does WISH provide?

We are a 25-bed shelter program, there's a 24-hour crisis line, available to lower 48 and Alaska. Education, prevention and awareness activities are key to the philosophy of the organization. We go to the schools on daily basis. Adult groups are open to clients. OuWe have several support groups like a parenting support group, safe and sober support group for survivors dealing with issues of domestic violence and chemical dependency, women's empowerment group, children's program during summer, support and education groups for children who are survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault.

They've created a mentorship program for adolescents to train education and awareness activities in the schools. Our program has a large scope, and we try to have associations with volunteer advocacy groups in each community. We like to have local conduits for awareness activities and advocacy. Board members represent each of the communities on the board. Another big piece of our program is legal advocacy, by doing a court watch weekly, supporting people in the process in writing and filing protective orders of various types or go to legal meetings. Our children's program is a support to the many other services we provide. We have childcare during meetings or legal needs and bonus care for clients in the shelter for three hours on Fridays so those women have a chance to take a break.

How have you seen the need for services change?

I only have a history of three and half years here so my view is limited, but I have seen a population in the shelter change. There has been a drop in people needing actually shelter care. People are not as in need of shelter as it used to be because there are more resources. We provide safety and shelter, but it is not quite as needed as it used to be. On the other hand our non-residential services are very needed and at the same time the hardest to make happen and attract people into. My thing is that every piece of energy I can put is in prevention.

What is the prevalence of domestic abuse in Southeast Alaska?

Ketchikan and Southeast Alaska is not a whole lot different than any other place in Alaska. We have some serious problems in violence. Some people have accepted violence into their community and our message is that's not acceptable. From what I've seen we're right up there than everybody else in the state. It's no lower, and we're looking the same. I'm not seeing as much placement in shelter as other agencies in the state.

What can people do to help prevent domestic abuse?

One thing is that through awareness and education we are letting people know that violence is not acceptable in a community. We should have zero tolerance for violence. That's huge, and it's a big piece of what we do. There are adult populations that don't know what domestic violence is or what a sexual assault is. There are women who are married and don't understand they can be sexually assaulted also. Understanding is a big piece, and we're also bringing education of a similar nature to youth. From pre-shool to high school we're showing them what domestic violence looks like and about basic behaviors like bullying, dating violence, date rape, healthy relationships, trying to certainly bring that out to civic groups and bring that out to the open to the general population.

What are the needs of WISH to continue its services?

I know we're in the same position as every program in the state that operation funds are always a struggle. Operational funds have most impacted the bottom line because nobody funds operations. We've been greatly impacted by the fact we can't afford to pay staff a competitive salary. Having a staff and keeping them are huge issues. We're just not competing with anyone in town. I truly want people who have some qualifications. These are critical issues and you need people who can deal with this. It's a high exposure type of employment. Occasionally we need dollars for awareness activities, but those are luxuries we just don't have. We have multiple fund-raising sources, and we have substantial donations. We're developing a nice little force of donations. It's not to the point it's going to run us, but it helps. We're also affiliated with United Way.

Editor's note: Capital City Weekly will each week feature a business or organizational leader to answer five questions. To send suggestions for interviewees, send e-mail to Amanda Gragertat