Alternative Horizons (AH) is a grassroots organization started in 1978 by a handful of women who believed that no one had a right to beat another human being. In the beginning, women volunteered as members of the Board of Directors and peer-counselors on the 24-hour hot-line. In addition to the hot-line, AH also offered a network of volunteer safe homes for stays of up to three nights. These services were available to residents of La Plata and San Juan Counties in southwest Colorado.
AH has evolved over the last 38 years. There have been very few changes to the hot-line since the beginning and continues to be staffed entirely by community volunteers. Even though the amount of calls has grown exponentially and the duration of training has increased from four to thirty hours we continue to offer our services free of charge to anyone who calls seeking help. Other services added during the lifespan of AH have included support groups for adults in both English and Spanish; court advocacy to assist victims with the criminal justice system; specialized multicultural outreach to ensure representative community service and service to marginalized communities; the “Bridges of Hope” legal project; 24-hour hot-line services in Spanish; group counseling and case management for male and female adolescents; and prevention curriculum for middle school to college-aged youth. In addition, staff, board and volunteers provide ongoing community presentations and education.
In all its splendor and beauty, La Plata County is not immune to intimate partner violence. One quarter of the District Attorney’s Office caseload are domestic violence cases and AH provides services to more and more clients every year. AH support groups and the legal project are consistently full. Young adults are being arrested at higher rates and at least 1/3 of students in AH prevention classes disclose knowing someone who is being abused or are experiencing abuse themselves.
While services have adapted over time to accommodate community needs, AH has not changed the focus of the organization in 38 years. The concern of the founders of AH remains consistent today and providing alternatives and assistance to victim/survivors remains at the forefront. One significant change over that time has been the amount of collaboration and connectivity the community, service providers, advocacy agencies, law enforcement and the criminal justice system, human services and treatment providers enjoy as a direct result of a collective common goal of preventing intimate partner violence and keeping families safe. This community is fortunate to have many people, agencies and organizations that are willing to address common societal problems and work together on long-term solutions.