By Shari Goldstein Stern
When you suffer from abuse or you are a victim of human trafficking, your choices of where to escape safely are limited. In Texas during the fall and winter, the problem may be exacerbated by unpredictable, extreme weather conditions. The upcoming holiday season tends to increase the numbers of those needing help. Then there’s the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, turning everyone’s world upside down.
Mosaic Family Services (Mosaic House) is a non-profit agency that provides temporary shelter to survivors of trafficking and domestic abuse. According to Mosaic Shelter Director Nancy Rocha, about 25 percent of Mosaic’s residents are single women, and 74 percent are families. The shelter can accommodate 46-50 residents a night and stays full most of the time.
“During the holidays we get more swamped due to an increase in violence. Some of that results from both spouses being at home together more. There’s typically an increase in alcohol consumption and children are on a break from school,” she added.
Mosaic provides for survivors of human abuse, and trafficking, shelter, food, a warm, empathetic, and trained staff. Rocha said, “If the shelter has to turn away survivors due to lack of space, we do a ‘warm transfer.’” She explained that the staff checks for other shelters’ availability for bed space and tries to “warm transfer” survivors over for screening and placement. She added, “We also use ‘safe night’ when needed to arrange a safe hotel stay with suitable accommodations when we are full.”
Rocha added, “We appreciate the untold numbers of seamstresses who have created safety masks for the residents the agency serves.”
“This experience has truly changed my life,” the director said. “I never knew the impact that I had on someone’s life until a survivor changed her first name to mine during her immigration ceremony.”
Mosaic is partly funded by federal grants including Health and Human Services and Office for Victims of Crime: Human Trafficking. United Way provides some funding as well, along with support from private and corporate grants.
A number of social service agencies and groups also support Mosaic House survivors through more hands-on means.
An example is National Council of Jewish Women’s (NCJW) Suitcase Project (SP). Many survivors arrive at the shelter with their only belongings on their back and in a trash bag.
Selfless NCJW volunteers give sheltered victims back their dignity by enabling them to transport their belongings in a suitcase or tote bag, which is packed with necessities for life at the shelter and beyond.
The volunteers procure items for two sets of recipients: Survivors while they reside in the shelter, and those who are transitioning to their own, independent living.
Everything NCJW donates to Mosaic is brand new, with an exception being suitcases in like-new condition. Items are not pre-used nor are tote bags grocery-store bags, but rather are made of high-quality fabric, many hand-made. The tote bags and suitcases the SP turns over to Rocha to distribute are filled with essentials for daily life while residing in the shelter. Examples are pillows, toothpaste and toothbrushes, deodorant, feminine products, soap, wash cloths and towels. Children’s toys are included.
A team of SP volunteers goes budget-shopping at their favorite retail stores for everything a survivor requires to transition from the shelter to independent living in their own apartment.
The team purchases kitchen utensils, cookware, cutlery, glassware and kitchen tools like strainers, dicers, can openers, timers, hot pads, mitts, towels, and more. Cleaning supplies are purchased, like laundry and dish detergents, laundry baskets, waste baskets, mops, brooms and incidentals.
Bathroom and bed linens are purchased, along with toiletries, toothpaste and toothbrushes, new bathrobes, makeup, toilet paper, tissues, and other necessities. For families moving into unfurnished apartments, the team has supplied airbeds.
“The impact NCJW has had on our shelter is noticeable,” Rocha said. “Without the NCJW assistance, many of our residents were leaving the shelter without anything to start their new homes. They were packing their belongings in large black trash bags.”
It is apparent that the selfless, generous Rocha is dedicated to serving Mosaic’s purpose in providing necessities and more to those in dire need and helping them get back on their feet.
For information about Mosaic Family Services, call 214-821-5393.