Melissa Farrar is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She graduated from the University of Tennessee’s College of Social Work. Melissa has over 20 years of experience providing individual, group, and play therapy for people experiencing trauma; primarily domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. Melissa has trained and supervised interns and candidates for licensure for 17 years. Melissa has expertise in developing, designing, implementing, and managing comprehensive client programs at large urban-serving social service agencies. Melissa was the Director of Social Services at Hope House for 5 years and is now the COO and was previously the Director of Victim Services at Kindred Place, formerly known as The Exchange Club Family Center, for 9 years.

How long have you been doing what you do? I started volunteering with child witnesses of DV in the late 90s which led me to get my Master’s in Social Work. I started working at The Exchange Club Family Center in 2003 in victim services. I was there for 13 years. I have been at Hope House for 6 years and I am currently the COO.

What types of services does your organization/agency/business provide? We provide wrap-around social services for people affected by HIV and poverty. We have a full-service social services house, a daycare, and a preschool. 

  • Trauma Services: Clients who have been crime victims or who have experienced trauma can encounter challenges in their lives. The following services are offered to assist clients in managing and eliminating these challenges: Criminal Justice Advocacy, Individual Therapy, Play Therapy, Domestic Violence Group, Sexual Violence Group, Childhood Sexual Abuse Group, Childhood Trauma Group, Hate Crimes/Bullying Group, Homicide Survivor Group, Shame Resilience Group, and Crime Prevention and Safety Group.
  • Emergency Services: Clients living in poverty face challenges daily. These services help clients to meet their basic needs in order for them to focus on their physical and mental health. These services include: Emergency housing assistance, food pantry, hygiene products, diapers, clothing, medical transportation, and cleaning products.
  • Life Skills Education/Assistance: One of the many ways we can find hope in their lives is by working toward self-sufficiency. These services are aimed at assisting clients to increase their independence: Self- Sufficiency Group, Getting Ahead in a Just getting by World, Financial Peace, Mentoring/Advocacy Group, Boundaries, Emotional Resources, Assistance with job applications, school applications, Social Security Disability Benefits applications, and resumes.
  • Mental Health Services: Mental health issues can be a challenge for people to maintain self-sufficiency, medical adherence, and a fulfilling life. Often, people experiencing mental health issues can lose all hope and feel helpless. These services aim to assist clients in regaining control of their lives: Grief Group, Anger Management Group, Mood Disorders Group, Addictions Groups, Women’s Support Group, Transgender Support Group, Domestic Violence Support Group, Co-Ed Support Group, Creative Expression Group, and 55+ Support Group.
  • Healthy Living Services: Our physical health can impact every area of our lives. These services are offered to help our clients live the healthiest life possible: Sex Education, Medication Adherence, Women’s Fitness, Nutrition, Stress Reduction, and Healthy Living for People 55+ living with HIV.
  • Outreach and Testing: Prevention and stigma reduction are vital for our community and for people living with HIV. Hope House offers outreach and testing in the community. Outreach staff can attend community fairs, conduct interactive presentations, and provide educational opportunities as well as testing to increase awareness and decrease stigma.
  • Our physical health can impact every area of our lives. These services are offered to help our clients live the healthiest life possible: Sex Education, Medication Adherence, Women’s Fitness, and Stress Reduction.

What made you decide to do what you do/choose your field? The resilience I saw in survivors and child witnesses of DV was so humbling. I knew that every person I interacted with had something to teach me and I wanted to use that to be an advocate for those that felt they had no voice, for those that we lost, and for those that endured abuse in silence. I knew that we could improve the system and create services that would have a positive impact on families and our community.

What are some of the most gratifying parts of what you do? Watching someone who thought that no one cared and that they were forgotten become empowered and have a voice and use that voice for themselves and others. To watch new professionals in our field stand up and become advocates in the community because of their interactions with the people we serve and the training we give them.

What are some of the most disheartening things about what you do? The continued discrimination and stigma in our community and the lack of resources for those most vulnerable in our community.

Do you have any events coming up? We have our largest fundraiser CMOM After Dark on March 31st.

Do you have any needs that would help you better do what you do? We are always in need of subs in our daycare and preschool. We always need cleaning and hygiene supplies. We are always looking for new places to collaborate with for HIV testing and education.

What main point(s) do you want the readers to take away from this article? Every person deserves to be treated with respect, love, and compassion. None of us have a right to judge others instead we have an obligation to support and advocate.

How can people get in touch with you? Please list all forms of contact information you want people to have (website, email, social handles, etc.),