As witnesses worry about testimony, Room2Hope tries to improve morale with renovated waiting rooms

Hays

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — Denise Fonseca knows what it’s like anxiously awaiting to be called as a witness in a trial for a violent offender, and Monday, she’s going to showcase how she’s going to help those facing the task in the future.

Her nonproift organization Room2Hope makes its debut with two renovated rooms at the Hays County Government Center to help those about to give testimony “feel calm and centered.”

Before Room2Hope, the room she sat in while waiting to give testimony as a material witness in a felony case with a violent offender “made her feel quite hopeless.”

The whole ordeal, spanning two years from 2018 to 2019, was traumatizing she said, and the room she was in didn’t help matters.

“Waiting to testify in court in front of a violent felon is nerve-wracking,” she said. “As you attempt to stay calm and collect your thoughts while your heart is racing, you’re painfully aware of the uncomfortable chairs with the upholstery coming off, shabby carpets and drab-colored walls.”

Using restitution money to help fund her nonprofit, along with plenty of other outside support, Fonseca’s redone spaces for witnesses to sequester in are aimed not just to make people feel more comfortable, but to give better testimony with confidence.

“I want them to find the courage to prepare to relive the trauma they experienced once they are in an open courtroom,” she said. “Changing the space could give them more confidence to endure what they’re about to face.”

For now, there are two rooms — one for adults and one for children — in the government center. With continued support, Fonseca hopes to remodel more of these rooms in nearby counties, and eventually all over Texas and across the country.

Local support for the project has been huge, Fonseca said. The Dripping Springs resident said local law enforcement and government entities, plus private businesses and citizens, have all helped pitch in to make Room2Hope a reality.

At Monday’s grand opening, Hays County Commissioner Lon Shell and District Attorney Wes Mau are set to give remarks on the project, along with Fonseca. Media members will tour the rooms, and Fonseca hopes the changes to the rooms inspire others to do the same.

“We believe once you see the rooms and what simple but effective changes can do,” Fonseca said, “it will be hard not to want to share the story and encourage other counties to embrace Room2Hope to bring a similar level of hope, calm and reassurance to victims waiting to testify in violent crime trials.”

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