Estella Weitz

Haven House Interim Executive Director Estella Weitz now has the “interim” prefix removed from her title.

Weitz, who previously worked 10 years as a client services coordinator for the Safe Haven domestic violence program in Tarrant County, Texas, moved to New Mexico with her husband and son three years ago. One year later, she was working under previous Executive Director Roberta Radosevich, who earlier this year announced she’d be retiring.

“Roberta and I worked very closely together,” Weitz said. “She took me under her wing. We like being able to provide an environment where people come in, they feel safe. Our goal is the clients coming in as victims, (and then) going to survivors using our services.”

Haven House is the only domestic violence shelter in Sandoval County. Its services include emergency shelter, case management, support groups, life-skills classes, legal advocacy, referrals to job opportunities, housing services, therapeutic counseling for women and their children, plus children’s programs.

“I love New Mexico; I like the weather,” Weitz said. “We moved here, kinda wanted to change, and it was between Florida and New Mexico.”

She quickly found New Mexico was no different than what she’d encountered in Texas, or probably would have in the Sunshine State: “(Domestic violence) happens everywhere; we do have a real issue here in New Mexico.”

Haven House reduced its number of beds for clients to 20, giving women and any children more privacy.

“It’s more about giving the family the space, healing in their own environment. Instead of having two families to one room, we’ll have one (family),” Weitz said. “We assess our needs over the phone; safety planning is very important to us.”

With the reduction in available space, Weitz said clients are also being put up in local hotels.

During the pandemic, Haven House is receiving fewer calls for help. That doesn’t necessarily mean domestic violence is trending down, she said.

“For the shelters, the problem right now is the perpetrator is always home — we’re getting less calls, although clients can actually call to get help. That just means there’s not that safe window for victims to call hotlines,” she said.

The center is not set up to receive texts, which would be easier for a victim to use to notify Haven House of her need for help than when the perpetrator can see or hear her talking on her phone.

“We haven’t reduced anything,” Weitz said, in light of the pandemic. “We’re operating at 100 percent right now. … Haven House has a non-residential team, and those case managers meet with (victims), and they can utilize counseling services, and legal advocates to accompany them to court. Even if they choose to stay at home, we’re going to safety-plan with them.”

Victims also can receive helpful services, such as financial planning, life skills and, added recently, “Dress for Success.”

“We have a lot of different services, different agencies who come in from the community,” she said, grateful for the help.

“It’s very important for me to work with the community, bringing awareness, being able to help,” she said. “What I want to work on is community; we have had more staff.

“I love doing this work,” Weitz said. “It’s where my heart is.”