Donating Gift Cards to Women in Domestic Violence Shelters
As you know I am knee-deep in putting together the care packages for the women and children in domestic violence shelters. Over the weekend I asked a question on Facebook about whether we should also include a $20 Gift Card (maybe Woolies etc?) in the women’s care packages, or whether that money ($600) would be better spent as a cash donation to the refuge or charity.
While many readers thought it was a great idea, there was some concern that the money may be used inappropriately, might be stolen, or that it wasn’t really necessary as the women are already issed with emergency payments from Centrelink and food from the refuge.
It’s really important to me that everyone understands exactly what happens to women in these situations – this is a group effort, and many people have contributed in a number of ways to be able to make these care packages happen. So I asked the CWRG (Combined Women’s Refuge Group) Secretariat if she would address some of the questions that were raised. Here is her response:
I do actually work at a women’s refuge as well as my position on CWRG and we often get asked this question so my thoughts here are based on what we find at our refuge – other places may do things differently. With regards to the comment (on Facebook) – your donations would be distributed among DV-specific refuges. Most gift cards/cash donations would be spent within the first day or two for urgent needs and we do not really see much in the way of stealing, particularly of those donations. Most DV refuges now are set up as blocks of self-contained units rather than a communal house, allowing the women more security and privacy so theft is much more rare than it used to be. The women do get a crisis payment from centrelink but it often takes a couple of days to get processed, especially if the woman comes into refuge over the weekend. At our refuge we provide some food for the first day or two but it is fairly basic. We also provide the toiletry item care packs from donations such as yours. However the most common needs for money in the first two days would probably be clothing and cigarettes.Many women have to escape whenever they have the opportunity and may not have the chance to bring any clothing or personal belongings with them. While we do collect donations of second hand clothes for this purpose, we often will not have items in the right size etc and more importantly, items such as underwear and pyjamas need to be donated new or purchased. We often give women some cash and drive them to the shops on the first day for this reason. There is some dignity to be had in purchasing your own underwear & pyjamas etc rather than accepting donated ones.I too asked the question when I first started working in the refuge about donations being spent on cigarettes. However the response really made me reevaluate my position. Fleeing a violent relationship and starting your life completely over and away from all of your support networks is probably one of the most stressful situations a woman could find herself in. This is not the time to quit smoking! We often find that the women who are smokers, desperately need to keep that up for the moment so that they are able to deal with the situation they find themselves in and to be able to cope appropriately with their children as well who have also had their whole lives ripped apart and often act out or experience other difficulties as a result. So we do give women cash for cigarettes if needed, particularly on that first day or two. If your group would prefer that their donations not be used for this purpose, there are WISH Essentials gift cards available from Woolworths which cannot be used for cigarettes or alcohol.But in general, my answer would be that yes, gift cards are always appreciated in our welcome packs as it allows the woman to purchase for herself whatever she feels she may need in that moment of crisis. If you would prefer to donate cash to the refuges themselves, then it could be given out on a case by case basis for specific needs that may not be covered by the items provided. Either way your contributions will be greatly appreciated and will assist our women & children to begin to heal and create their new lives, free from violence.