This is the third story in a series highlighting graduates from the Center on Violence Against Women and Children at the Rutgers University School of Social Work. The Center was created in 2007, established in part by a $100,000 endowment by HopeLine from Verizon.
Safe Horizon, the largest victims’ services agency in the country, is always looking for ways to serve its clients better. Recently, through the carefully-designed Community Program Helpline, it has been able to answer approximately 1,400 additional calls per year, an increase of 31 percent.
It’s all thanks to the work of Amanda Stylianou, who, as director of research and evaluation at Safe Horizon, has utilized many opportunities to showcase the value of research in improving their services.
“I believe in making a difference. For me, that involves doing research and understanding the basic facts, so that we can design or update our programs and provide the best possible services to our clients,” said Stylianou, a 2008 graduate of the Rutgers University School of Social Work.
Stylianou worked with Safe Horizon to start the Community Program Helpline, which is available for clients to call and speak with an intake specialist and schedule appointments at the Community Program Offices.
Stylianou and her team executed a year-long quality improvement study to evaluate the successes of the Helpline, where they tracked the number of calls the Helpline could answer compared to the number of staff working. After analyzing the data, Stylianou determined how many additional staff members were needed to manage the influx of calls.
Her next project will evaluate how long clients use Safe Horizon’s emergency shelters while they are waiting for New York City Housing, Section 8 Housing or other permanent, stable housing.
“We want to find ways to decrease the amount of time survivors and their families are living in the homeless system,” Stylianou said.
Stylianou has long appreciated the value of research, but it was during her undergraduate studies at Westmont College that she realized her passion of working with families that have been affected by domestic violence, and learning how research can be applied to create change.
“I was working at a shelter when I recognized that there are often few resources available for women and children of abuse,” she said. “My goal was to understand social problems that domestic violence victims often face – like racism, gender discrimination, poverty and literacy issues – and see how we can make a difference.”
Working toward that goal, Stylianou went back to school to earn a master’s degree at the Rutgers’ School of Social Work, where she joined the Center on Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC). It was there that she conducted a semester-long project to study and evaluate financial literacy among domestic violence victims. Some of her key findings showed that the number one reason women stayed in abusive relationships was because of money.
“My work at Rutgers showed me that research is key in not only understanding problems faced by domestic violence survivors and their families, but that it is instrumental in providing them with better, more targeted services,” Stylianou said.
Stylianou was one of the first recipients of Verizon Wireless’ HopeLine scholarships, given every year to three students who are committed to working on issues of violence against women and children. In addition, HopeLine from Verizon Wireless has been a longtime supporter of Safe Horizon, most recently donating to the organization’s Streetwork’s Drop In Center, a refuge for homeless and street-involved young people in New York City affected by domestic violence.