CASA: From Humble Beginnings
CASA was founded by Sr. Margaret Freeman in 1977 as the “Free Clinic Spouse Abuse Shelter,” a service of the St. Petersburg Free Clinic providing emergency housing for up to 8 domestic violence survivors at a time. It soon became an independent 501c3 nonprofit organization, able to expand its services with financial support from a network of caring community organizations and members.
CASA was incorporated in 1981 as the “Center Against Spousal Abuse” under the leadership of Executive Director Silvia Tucker. (The name was later changed to “Community Action Stops Abuse” to become inclusive of domestic violence occurring outside marital relations.) With Tucker’s guidance, CASA’s emergency shelter was expanded to accommodate 22 participants, children’s programs were created, an Outreach department was formed to provide support groups and peer counseling, and the fundraising groundwork was laid in order develop a 30 bed shelter, which opened in 1992.
In 1989 Linda A. Osmundson was hired as Executive Director, a role she held until July 2015. Under her leadership CASA grew to include enhanced support groups, a 24-hour domestic violence hotline, outreach services, training for law enforcement and other community members, and youth programs such as the Peacemakers Program teaching violence prevention in Pre-K through 8th grade classes. CASA Collections Thrift Shoppe was opened in 1998 to collect items for domestic violence survivors and raise funds for CASA.
In July 2015, CASA opened the doors to a newly constructed 100-bed domestic violence center. In addition to providing safe refuge to more than three times as many people at a time than before, it adds an integrated array of on-site support services such as a resource center and rapid re-housing program to help domestic violence survivors attain safety and economic opportunity. Shandra L. Riffey took the helm at CASA for a year to steer the organization during this time of great growth and change.
CASA is currently led by Interim Executive Director Suzanne Horn, a veteran employee who had previously served as its Operations Director for many years. She is overseeing major initiatives such as the development of a social enterprise business to train and hire domestic violence survivors, an on-site kennel at the shelter so that survivors will not need to choose between their own safety and that of their pets, and the installation of a fully funded rooftop solar system that is expected to defray 70% – 80% of the shelter’s electric costs over the next 25 years.
ANNIVERSARY GIFT TO CASA:
Your financial support is vital. Your volunteer support is crucial. Your empathy, caring and support are the lifeblood of our movement.