Maitri was started in February, 1991, by a group of Indian women in response to the growing need in the South Asian community to have a place where women experiencing problems could call in for information, referrals to mainstream agencies, and informal peer counseling. It was our experience that although there were mainstream organizations that provided similar kind of help, women from our communities often did not feel comfortable approaching them.
We hoped to provide a liaison between women in need and the various organizations that could provide them with legal, medical, financial, psychological or employment related services. Since the line would be completely confidential, and all our volunteers guarantee client confidentiality in a signed contract, we felt that women might feel freer to talk to us than they would to friends, acquaintances or mainstream domestic violence resources.
Accordingly, we started a free non-profit phone line where women could either speak to a volunteer or leave a message so that someone could call them back. We trained a group of 15 volunteers and compiled a resource guide with the help of local womens support services. We also contacted South Bay legal organizations such as Asian Law Alliance, which provides free services for women in need.
In September 1999, Maitri opened the doors to its newest, and most ambitious project to date; a low-cost house for women in transition, that is women who had resolved their main problem of abuse, and were now in the process of building a new life. The need for this type of house was prompted by the very tight and expensive rental housing market in the Bay area, the long waiting list (as much as 18 months) for existing low-cost housing, and the growing number of clients for whom Maitri was giving financial assistance toward their housing costs, as well as the clients who did not meet the mainstream qualification for emergency housing , even though they were in desperate need.