On Your Side: Victim cites filth, threats at local domestic violence shelter
Damita Goodall recently found herself in an abusive relationship with nowhere to turn. She was living out of her car this past July when she decided to check in with CAAW, the Committee to Aid Abused Women.
CAAW operates several shelters in the Reno-Sparks area which serve as safe havens for victims of domestic violence.
But Goodall says she was surprised to find the home where she would be staying was, in her words, "filthy."
And she says she was stunned when she found out she had been assigned to clean it up as soon as she stepped foot inside the home.
"She made me clean up a room that one of the ladies had moved out," Goodall told News 4. "It had blood, urine and vomit all over the floor."
Goodall took pictures, which she says show the substandard conditions in the house. One of the pictures does show cracked tiles, and another shows a missing kitchen drawer. Others appear to show dirty clothes and mats piled up on the floor and peeling paint on the door.
"The conditions were way worse than substandard," Goodall said.
But Goodall says it wasn't just the dirty conditions that concerned her. She says a staff member threatened to evict her if she took her concerns to the media.
"I was told that if I speak to anyone outside the house, that is automatic termination and I would be excused from the program," she told us.
We went to the CAAW headquarters on Vassar Street to get some answers for this story. The staff at CAAW dismissed the allegations. CAAW's client services director, Sylvia Gonzalez says the house where Goodall is staying is an older home that houses up to 25 people.
And while residents are expected to help clean up after themselves, Gonzalez said they are not asked to clean up messes left behind by former residents.
"No, as far as I know it hasn't happened," she said. "We would never expect anyone who is just moving into the shelter to clean anything."
But Goodall insists it did happen. Not just once, but twice.
"When I asked why I didn't get my gas card, she said I didn't have enough points. And I had to clean up another lady's room and then I would obtain my points."
CAAW's staff says they do use a point system for chores, but they say that is only for extras -- things like clothes and shoes, which the women can get at the CAAW office. The women are given a basic hygiene kit when they first check in, and no points are required for that.
As for that threat of eviction, Gonzalez says she visits the house where Goodall is staying on a weekly basis, and no one would ever be kicked out for speaking out.
"We do not discourage them. They have every right to speak to anybody they want to," she told us.
The house where Goodall is staying is in an undisclosed location, and that is for the safety of the women who stay there. It is one of three residential facilities operated by CAAW.
Again, the staff at CAAW deny all of these allegations. They told us the only thing they've done in response is to remind all of the residents that there is a grievance process in place if they have concerns about the facility or the program.
However, Goodall says she has seen changes taking place behind the scenes to improve the conditions at the CAAW home since we spoke with her and started looking into this story.