NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

December 31, 2012

HAWC told to improve shelter

Salem: Report finds no evidence of abuse but recommends training, policies

The managers of a battered women’s emergency shelter run by Salem-based Healing Abuse Working for Change will be required to develop an improvement plan, provide additional training for employees and establish set policies for terminating services for residents, following a six-month investigation into allegations of mismanagement and a “climate of abuse” at the facility.

The report, completed last month by the Department of Children and Families and turned over to HAWC, found that many of the claims by residents of the Salem shelter were unfounded, including accusations that residents were subjected to humiliating or retaliatory behavior by staff after they complained about conditions, including an allegation that they were forced to fight over donated clothing and beg for supplies or cots.

“Overall, the investigation showed that HAWC was diligent in maintaining good relations with residents, and the complaints were not typical,” said Nancy Sterling, a spokeswoman for the organization, which received the report late this month.

But the shelter has not been accepting any new residents since the allegations first came to light in a letter from attorneys from Neighborhood Legal Services to the Department of Children and Families, which administers grant money used to fund the home.

Neighborhood Legal Services was representing at least six residents of the shelter in eviction proceedings in the Housing Court.

Cayenne Isaksen, a spokeswoman for DCF, said the agency supported the decision by HAWC to stop taking in new residents until the issues, including the development of a clear policy on termination from the program, were addressed. Neither Isaksen nor Sterling could say whether there are currently any residents at the shelter.

The Salem News has sought a copy of the report under the state’s public records law. Isaksen said the agency is currently reviewing the request.

But Isaksen offered to outline the report’s chief findings:

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