Domestic Violence Advocates In Douglas Struggle To Help Victims As Energy Boom Hits

May 8, 2019

"No Vacancy" signs are a common sight in Converse County because many oilfield workers live there long term.
Credit Flickr Creative Commons/Lynette

A program that helps victims of domestic violence is increasingly having trouble finding safe places for people to stay because of an energy boom that has filled all the housing options in the area. Converse Hope Center Director Lisa Thalken said recently, when a woman sought their help, they couldn't find anywhere to put her.

"Our advocates literally called every hotel in the county and could not find a single hotel room," Thalken said. "Thankfully, we are good friends with the manager at the Higgins Hotel in Glenrock and she remembered that someone had reserved a night and hadn't checked in. So, we were able to get them in to Glenrock, but that was the only room in the entire county that evening."

The Hope Center's own safe house was occupied by a male victim and that meant they couldn't house females there.

"We've seen an increase in male clients and I think that's mainly because they thankfully feel comfortable enough to come here," Thalken said.

The organization is working to expand their safe house space in the near future.

Thalken said the energy industry is bringing other problems besides housing, though.

"We've seen multiple victims of human trafficking come through in the last month, which I do know that some of those are here because of the oil field, so that is definitely a concern."

Thalken said the state should get involved, perhaps encouraging industry to house oilfield workers at the state fairgrounds and other campgrounds instead of in hotels. She'd also like to see energy companies take more responsibility for the social impacts they have on towns like Douglas.

"People get a bad taste in their mouths when they feel like these companies are only here to make money and then leave."

Sometimes energy companies give employees funds to donate to charities, Thalken said, and she thinks they should encourage them to give to organizations like hers that are reckoning with the effects of the energy industry's boom and bust cycles.