Rise Above Violence’s ‘Coffee Talk’ sheds light on local housing and youth violence prevention issues


By John Finefrock

Rise Above Violence

At its quarterly Coffee Talk, staff from Rise Above Violence gave updates on local housing issues and youth violence prevention programs in Pagosa Springs.


“Currently, our really impending need right now is transitional housing,” said Lisa Sifrit, Rise’s housing and legal advocate. “I’m sure everybody knows there’s a housing crisis in not just our town, but the whole state, the whole country — but that doesn’t mean our clients still don’t need places to move to be safe. The running issue is we have plenty of financial support for them, but we don’t have anywhere for them to go. There’s no houses, there’s no buildings, there’s really nowhere — but we could financially back them if they had somewhere to go.”

Rise assists with transitional housing to enhance the safety of victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in order to provide a safe and stable place for them to begin recovery.

Sifrit told the audience that if any community members have mother-in-law suites, small apartments on their property, second homes that sit vacant for long periods of time, or even campers on vacant land available for rent, to please contact her. 

She explained Rise can potentially pay rent for qualifying clients for one to three months before they find a long-term housing solution, which she noted is very difficult to find in our community. She can be contacted at lisa@riseaboveviolence.org.

Youth Violence
Prevention Programs

Cheryl Bowdridge, one of Rise’s youth advocates, presented to the group about her eight years leading youth violence prevention programming in Pagosa Springs.

Bowdridge outlined Rise’s youth violence prevention programs, which include, but are not limited to, classes and presentations on building healthy relationships, bullying prevention, Internet safety, sexual harassment training and small group activities, among other offerings.

Bowdridge cited that, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, she led an elective at the high school called Youth Rise, where students studied and implemented awareness campaigns around teen dating violence, consent and other topics. 

She noted the class was popular, with about 75 people applying to be in the class that had only about 22 seats and stressed that Rise can still offer this kind of programming, at no cost, to every school in Pagosa Springs.

Based on “post-test” data that’s collected after each youth presentation:

• Ninety percent of students were able to identify an appropriate way to help a friend who is in an unhealthy dating relationship. 

• Eighty-six percent of students could identify three qualities of healthy relationships at post test; showing a 25 percent gain in knowledge from the pre-test.

• Ninety-five percent of students report having more information to keep themselves safe in their online interactions.

“What we’re trying to do in all of this is break the cycle of violence that potentially happens for them,” said Ashely Wilson, education and outreach coordinator for Rise. “A lot of these kids are in homes that might not have healthy relationships or might have violent relationships — so what does this look like to sort of create a wedge and break this cycle through education?”

For more information on Rise’s youth programs, contact Bowdridge at cheryl@riseaboveviolence.org or (970) 946-2576, or John Finefrock at john@riseaboveviolence.org or (970) 403-5461.

And don’t miss Rise’s sixth annual Art Above Violence event on Sept. 25. Join us in celebrating our 25th year serving Pagosa Springs. More information, including how to purchase tickets, can be found at riseaboveviolence.org.

Rise Above Violence is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization which promotes the belief that all people have the right to live free from violence. Rise provides 24-hour support and advocacy services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and other forms of violence. All programs and services are free and confidential. Visit riseaboveviolence.org for more information or call the 24-hour hotline at (970) 264-9075 to talk to an advocate today.