North Forty News
“It can happen to anyone,” said Lisa Poppaw. “ One in three women and one in four men will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives.”
Poppaw, who has just completed her second year as executive director of Crossroads Safehouse, came into her position following a career that included experience at United Way, as executive director of the Foundation on Aging, and three years heading up Childsafe, a non-profit dedicated t providing therapy for victims of child and sexual abuse. Earlier, as a stay-at-home mom, she volunteered in Poudre School District, serving as a PTO president followed by eight years on Fort Collins City Council. A graduate of the University of Northern Colorado with a degree in English and Women’s Studies, Poppaw loves her work guiding the only direct full-service organization that those experiencing domestic violence and abuse can turn to in Fort Collins.
Poppaw found it difficult to leave Childsafe, but when the opportunity to meet a larger challenge came her way, she accepted. Crossroads has a staff of thirty, operates on at 1.7 million dollar budget, and is on call 24/7, 365 days a year. She has not been sorry about her decision.
The current Crossroads safehouse is no longer in an undisclosed location. Their 29,000 square-foot location at 421 Parker Road houses 31 bedrooms plus the organization’s administrative and legal staff, all under one roof. Formerly a nursing home, the facility was completely remodeled by Dohn Construction in 2010.
“People are surprised at all the services we provide,” Poppaw says. “We have two full-time and one part-time lawyer on staff plus a paralegal” This team provides legal services to Weld and Larimer counties and supports services in Moffett, Routt Jackson and Grand counties in the Bringing Justice Home Program. The program offers bilingual assistance in legal areas such as obtaining civil protection orders, and in divorce and custody cases.
Related to but not the same as legal services, Crossroads also provides legal advocacy, facilitating communication and problem-solving and offering support addressing legal issues for clients.
Crossroads programs are wide-ranging. In addition to emergency housing and 24/7 crisis intervention, they facilitate outreach and youth programs. They work with local and Colorado State University police as part of DART, the domestic abuse response team.
A component of the youth program called Time to Talk works to prevent violence before it starts by training high school students to present programs to their peers through a health education course in the school curriculum. Peers address dating violence and discuss the components of a healthy relationship. A children’s program uses music, pet, and play therapy, and private counseling when needed, for young children and teens. Latina Services include a Spanish language program that meets weekly at La Familia.
Poppaw saw the rise of numbers at the safehouse during the early days of the Covid-19 crisis. “All the beds were full. But now the pressure is less,” she said. “Anxiety is down. Our numbers have dropped but the calls we receive asking for outreach services are up.”
She believes people are fearful of contracting diseases and unless they are fearful for their lives, they are electing to “stay with the devil they know rather than risk a devil they don’t know.”
An average stay at the safehouse is 35 days and until the COVID crisis, stays were limited to eight weeks. These days the length of stay is indefinite.
A new program called Rapid Rehousing was initiated June 1 providing five families at a time with a shortstop and support in finding more permanent housing. Help includes rental assistance. Crossroads relies on agencies such as Housing Catalyst and Neighbor to Neighbor to Neighbor to find housing for their clients.
The safehouse relies on food donations from restaurants and the Food Bank to feed residents. In recent weeks food bank shortages have been supplemented by Shamrock, a restaurant food supplier, and the Bohemian Corporation to pick up the slack.
While services provided by Crossroads have not changed, these days they are sometimes delivered differently. “We have to remain nimble to meet the needs of our clients,” Poppaw said, speaking from her home, which these days is also her workplace, as she moves ahead, now working with a bare-bones staff.