Erica Exline, Shelter and Outreach manager for Crossroads Safehouse, works in her office at the Fort Collins headquarters on Apr. 16. Crossroads is a non-profit that advocates for domestic and interpersonal violence victims in Fort Collins. Along with an emergency hotline, it provides resources and a crisis shelter. Courtesy of Erica Exline.

COVID Diaries Colorado: At Crossroads Safehouse, Erica Exline sees high demand

ABOUT THIS PROJECT

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, a coalition of Colorado journalists already had been talking about how to better serve the public by collaborating and sharing stories. The urgency of the situation accelerated the work. More than 40 Colorado news organizations — newspapers, TV, radio and digital outlets — are now sharing their reporting through the Colorado News Collaborative, COLab for short. And on April 16, 22 outlets joined together to report on the impact of the pandemic on Coloradans. The result: COVID Diaries Colorado, stories of grit, ingenuity and hope.

FORT COLLINS — Erica Exline entered the Crossroads Safehouse office at 9 a.m. on Thursday. Before walking to her office, she stopped to note on a whiteboard with a blue Expo marker that she had arrived.

Only one other employee was in the office. Though Crossroads is an essential service, onsite staff is limited, leaving several offices empty throughout the building.

Crossroads Safehouse is a Fort Collins nonprofit organization providing advocacy, legal assistance, transitional and emergency housing, education, food and clothing for domestic and interpersonal violence victims and their families. Its safehouse has 26 rooms with few vacancies. Housing is normally temporary, but with the COVID-10 pandemic, Crossroads extended the timeline indefinitely.

With Colorado’s COVID-19 shelter-in-place order, victims’ ability to distance themselves from a live-in abuser is limited, Exline said. In the third week of February, Crossroads saw 29 calls to its emergency shelter.  The statewide mandate to stay at home came in March. The week of April 11 to 17 had 45 requests between calls and walk-ins.

At 11:12 a.m., Exline cleaned out the room of a recently exited resident. She pulled the covers from the bed and threw it into the wash in the laundry room. 

By the afternoon, Exline shovelled out the parking lot. A foot of snow accumulated, preventing one resident from using her car. Another slid her vehicle into an electrically operated gate.

Throughout the day, Exline jumped between her office and other parts of the campus. Her paisley cloth mask hung from her ear as she took hotline calls, emailed staff and volunteers and conducted Zoom meetings.

Around 7 p.m., she got into her car to head home. Rarely does she leave that early. When she arrived home, she tuned into Crossroads Facebook Live fundraiser “Couch Concert #2: Live In Your Living Room.” The event raised more than $3,000 in donations.

Editor’s note: This story is a part of COVID Diaries Colorado, powered by the Colorado News Collaborative, or COLab. BizWest joined this historic collaboration with more than 20 other newsrooms across Colorado to better serve the public.

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