Houston leaders announce plan to help domestic violence victims during pandemic

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As Houston city leaders deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a rise in the number of domestic violence reports has prompted a focused response to the problem.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and District C City Council Member Abbie Kamin rolled out an awareness campaign Wednesday to reach out to victims who may have a harder time finding safety.

"We know reports of domestic violence have increased as victims are homebound with their abusers," Turner said. "We implemented the Stay Home - Work Safe order to encourage social distancing and to save lives, but we understand that home is not always safe for everyone."

In the city of Houston alone, police reported a nearly 9 percent increase in domestic violence calls in March. While the jump is similar to an increase in 2019, city leaders say they're aware that the pandemic has complicated the usual assistance that's available to victims.

"We know some victims may feel helpless and not have a viable way to get out of a dangerous environment," Turner said.

A new website and hotline have been set up in partnership with the Houston Area Women's Center and the Harris County Coordinating Council.

Victims can reach out for help by calling (713) 528-2121 or going to nocovidabuse.org.

"To those who are at home who are the victims of domestic violence, we want you to know in very clear terms, you are not standing alone," Kamin said.

The ridesharing company Uber also made a $50,000 grant to the city of Houston and will provide free rides for victims of human trafficking and domestic violence, according to Turner.

The Houston Area Women's Center recently told ABC13 it saw a 40 percent increase in domestic violence calls and began taking more than 80 calls a day, with more than half of those seeking shelter immediately.

The shelter can typically hold 120 people, but because of social distancing requirements, they have capped occupancy at about 100. Turner said the city is also working on plans to secure hotel rooms for victims due to the limited shelter capacity.

If you or anyone you know needs help, you can also contact the Houston Area Women's Center.

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