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Barbara Ellis: Embodying the Safe Horizon Vision

“I never feel that I’m at work, I always feel that I’m on a mission. I work as if I’m trying to eradicate all crime.” - Director of Manhattan-Bronx Community Program Barbara Ellis.


Witnessing or experiencing violence can be emotionally and physically traumatic. Our Community Programs are New York City mainstays that serve all five boroughs, providing survivors of violence with resources such as referrals to practical and emergency assistance, advocacy and counseling. These services are available for survivors of all types of violence ranging from domestic violence to rape and sexual assault, to child abuse to hate crimes, gang violence or any type of crime or violence.

Barbara Ellis oversees the Community Program that helps over 700 residents in the Bronx and Manhattan each year. As director of the Manhattan-Bronx Community Program for over a decade, Barbara manages a staff of three social workers, ensures the accuracy of documentation and provides direct services to clients.

Changing Lives after Terrorist Attacks

Barbara heard about Safe Horizon in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. Safe Horizon was one of the agencies called upon by The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City to provide disaster relief. The realization that she could have easily been a victim made Barbara take the tragic event very personally. “On September 11th, I had to miss an appointment at the World Trade Center at 9:30 in the morning because I wasn’t able to make it that day, I felt spared and blessed.

In addition to supporting people impacted by the attacks, Barbara continued to maintain the everyday services for communities impacted by violence. Thankfully, Barbara’s prior professional experience helped her understand the breadth of Safe Horizon’s clients and services. “I worked as a social worker in foster care at Little Flower Children and then at Lincoln Hospital. Many times, I referred people who experienced domestic violence to Safe Horizon’s hotline.

Her Passion for Social Service

Barbara feels especially passionate about helping individuals and families impacted by homicide. One of the clients who Barbara formed a close relationship with is a mother whose daughter was fatally shot. The daughter was an aspiring basketball player whose murder was heavily covered in the media.

Barbara helped the grieving mother obtain financial help for the funeral costs through state assistance and provided compassionate support to help her through an experience no parent should ever have to bear. “I think of what that young girl’s life could have been and I apply that perspective to my own life. If there’s something I wish I could do, I think of that girl and imagine that if she were alive today, she would be a professional basketball player. It inspires me to take that leap.

This case is one example of how our staff touch the lives of more than 250, 000 New Yorkers a year in their time of need. Our Community Program staff help more than 5, 000 clients each year in person or through our helpline. Barbara is proud to be part of an organization that seeks to end all violence. Her approach to her work embodies both the mission and vision of Safe Horizon. “I never feel that I’m at work, I always feel that I’m on a mission. I work on the premise that my vision is to have a world where there is no crime. I work as if I’m trying to eradicate all crime.

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