Nonprofit serving domestic violence survivors losing donations due to pandemic

As COVID-19 continues to spread, some local nonprofit organizations are losing donations that fund them.

Elizabeth House, an organization that shelters survivors of domestic abuse, is one of them. Elizabeth House receives three to five calls per day from survivors needing a safe home. Founder and CEO Sandra Preston hosts these families -- as many as five families at a time -- for six to12 months, typically, but has hosted survivors for as long as two years to give them a chance to heal, save money for a home, and achieve financial independence. 

Preston lives off of her Social Security check ($1200/month), and of this monthly income, she contributes at least a third to support Elizabeth House. Elizabeth House receives no government funding and solely relies on private grants/donations to keep Elizabeth House running. Since COVID-19, Sandra has lost a significant amount of that funding.

"Because we depend on individuals mainly, and they are out of work now, it has cut our funding about 75% of what we normally get in to run Elizabeth House," she said.

Preston said the need for funding is especially urgent right now because domestic violence cases have increased since the spread of the virus, which has required people in abusive situations to quarantine and endure additional stress.

"Last year, Orange County received over 8,000 phone calls from domestic violence victims, and Seminole County about 2,500. That's gone up drastically because of the virus."

Over the last four years, in her latest rental home, Preston has hosted 50 women and their children. An estimated 200-225 women over the last 17 years have been taken in, in addition to their children (an average of two children per woman). Now, the organization is facing an additional challenge. Preston's rental home has become unavailable.

"Right now, we don't even have the funds for moving. So we are looking for funds to move, of course, we are looking for a house to buy," she said.

Michelle Garcia, a realtor in Orlando, is helping the organization find a permanent home. Expenses to keep Elizabeth House open come to roughly $45,000-$50,000 per year, including rent. Garcia said her primary goal is to help Sandra raise enough money to purchase a home for Elizabeth House, so the rest of the donations received can go toward more support for the survivors.

"There's on average two children with every woman that Sandra is housing," she said. "Every dollar would be such a huge impact."

Elizabeth House is accepting donations on its website. Preston said they must vacate their rental home on August 1. Donations can be monetary, or simply one's time.