Nonprofit's struggles leave county in need of emergency shelter for domestic violence victims

Advocates scramble to help victims in crisis

ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. -- Advocates are struggling to find placement for domestic violence victims after the apparent shutdown of a nonprofit’s emergency shelter.

When Denver7 visited the Adams County address listed in public records for the Alternatives to Family Violence safe house, the team found it vacant with several notices from the codes department tacked up on the windows. The crisis hotlines posted on the nonprofit’s website are non-operational. And public records show the nonprofit suffered through months of financial and administrative problems.

Victim advocates say the situation creates a geographical challenge for families in crisis who may have to relocate to another county to find emergency help.

Shortage of Services

The apparent shutdown of the Alternatives to Family Violence shelter exacerbates a statewide shortage of emergency shelter space that sometimes leaves victims in crisis with no place to go.

The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) did a 24-hour survey of most of Colorado’s domestic violence programs for a one-day snapshot of the services provided to victims. In that one day, NNEDV found 158 requests for help went unmet due to a lack of resources and nearly 80 percent of those requests involved housing.

“The issue that we seem to be running into a lot is that these shelters are full,” domestic violence survivor and advocate Tracey Tatro-Swindle told Denver7 Investigates.

"[Alternatives to Family Violence] was a large program that had quite a few beds and had a wonderful response. And that's one thing we really need, is good resources for victims," said Randy Saucedo, executive director of Intervention, Inc. in Adams county.

Saucedo said Intervention, Inc. is often called on to find emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence suspects who are on probation. He said the loss of the Alternatives shelter often means some victims have to go to emergency shelters far away from home in other counties, if they can find placement at all.

"There's nothing worse than telling someone, 'We don't have anywhere to send you,’" Tatro-Swindle told Denver7 Investigates. “Their response is, ‘I'm supposed to go back to this abuser? He's going to kill me.’”

Signs of Trouble

Public records show Alternatives to Family Violence struggled and failed to maintain public grant funding that may have kept the program afloat.

Records from a state financial review of a 2013-2014 grant, written in 2015, show the state withheld nearly $45,000 from Alternatives due to “improper, inadequate, unjustified documentation submitted by agency.”

A handwritten note on the closeout form for the grant sums it up: “Goals and objectives were not reached. Agency experienced staff turnover, referrals not made, and agency on the verge of closing… and the grant was poorly managed.”  

In June 2015, state records show the president of Alternatives to Family Violence’s board, Anna Brooks, wrote a resignation letter saying she only received partial financial statements despite repeated requests. Brooks’ letter goes on to say, “I mention that there is no transparency in the executive director’s minimal and inadequate communications with us … You are an incredible leader but you are not an adequate or responsive administrator.”

In August of 2015, records from the 17th Judicial District show Alternatives missed out on nearly $99,000 in grant funding from the Victim Assistance and Law Enforcement (VALE) program because its application was late. The nonprofit also missed another deadline.

Administrative issues were not the only problems documented for ATFV in the summer of 2015. In July, a Commerce City police report shows police found a domestic violence suspect hiding under his estranged wife's bed in the safe house. The suspect told police his estranged wife had been letting him sleep in her room in the shelter for months but she denied making contact with him.

Denver7 Investigates called every number listed on ATFV’s website and found them to be disconnected. Numbers listed for the organization’s executive director, Yolanda Gotier, were disconnected as well. Gotier did not respond to an email request for comment on this story.

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