During times of crisis and of change, the community is often the place where vulnerable people turn for support and encouragement. This year was especially challenging with the coronavirus outbreak.
Family Crisis Center of the Big Bend started in 1982 as a program of the Alpine Community Center, growing out of the concern for residents who were victims of family violence. It was initially designed as a women’s center, but throughout the years, has also served men.
The Crisis Center has locations in Alpine, Terlingua, and Presidio, and serves Brewster, Jeff Davis, Presidio, Pecos, and Terrell counties. The Alpine location also operates a shelter that accommodates up to 10 people.
Heading the Center’s staff is Executive Director Sara Stropoli and Program Coordinator Gina Wilcox. Wilcox said south Brewster County was hit especially hard in March of this year.
“We have seen a dramatic increase in the number of clients who have been impacted financially - about a 20% overall increase due to COVID-19,” she explained. “About 80% of the population in the Terlingua area lost their jobs overnight when the hotels and the restaurants were shut down.”
Alpine saw a 50% increase in clients, with many families struggling to pay rent. Family violence saw a 20% increase since March. Wilcox said it was common for incidents of abuse to escalate during the holiday season, and especially this year.
Said Wilcox, “People are stuck at home together, and have financial stressors, fear of losing their jobs, fear of the virus, kids having to stay home from school. All of those things tie together to increase the stress levels.”
To add to the stress, coronavirus concerns canceled the Crisis Center’s biggest fundraiser of the year, the Lone Star Cowboy Poetry Gathering dance. Organizations such as United Way of Odessa and West Texas Food Bank have contributed, and the Center partners with other local non-profits, such as Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid. Donations to the Center are always accepted, and Wilcox encouraged the community to carry that gift-giving spirit into the new year.
Despite this year’s unique challenges, Wilcox remains hopeful for the future, knowing that the community has played a big part in providing help during throughout the present crisis.
“What gives me hope things will get better is that I know we have a strong community that comes together when they need to,” said Wilcox. “I have lived in this area for almost four years now, and the reason I live here is the love for this community. When it comes down to it, this community steps up for its people, and they take care of each other.”