Houston Area Women’s Center offers 24/7 hotline for women, families in dangerous situations

HOUSTON – Each month, the KPRC 2 community along with our partners at Energy Transfer come together to spotlight those who make a big impact in our community.

This month, we are focused on the Houston Area Women’s Center or HAWC.

The center helps thousands of women and families each year get out of dangerous and abusive situations.

Since the start of the pandemic, the center has seen a 30% increase in calls, with many women and families in crisis situations. HAWC has helped thousands of those families get out of abusive homes, and they continue to do so, one phone call at a time.

“Domestic violence hotline, how can I help you?” said Jessica Cantu, the crisis hotline and intervention services manager at the Houston Area Women’s Center, as she answered a hotline caller.

Cantu said the calls they receive range from asking a few questions and wanting some information to needing help and fast.

“They are calling us because the abuser stepped out to the store or something like that (and) they’re needing immediate assistance to leave the situation,” said Cantu.

Hotline operators are trained to ask specific questions to assess the situation and to assess for danger.

“We ask if there are guns in the house, have you been threatened with weapons, have you been strangled... to get an understanding of the danger level,” adds Cantu.

It’s part of a crucial safety plan that can help operators intervene as quickly as possible.

“Being able to safety plan is so critical because it is that moment when they decide to leave the relationship... it’s the most dangerous time,” said Celinda Guerra, director of Hotline and Crisis Intervention Services.

Last year, the center answered nearly 54,000 phone calls and safely housed more than 1,200 women, children and families.

Guerra said those in need of help or family members and friends of those in need of help can call anytime, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for anything.

“We really want to emphasize for survivors that they’re not alone, that this is not their fault and help is available. They can call without having to share a name and just get the information they need and learn the options they have available to them,” said Guerra.

HAWC offers counseling services, legal aid and shelter. Call the hotline at (713)528-2121 for help or questions or visit www.hawc.org to access the chat feature.