Plans in works for domestic violence shelter

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(Posted Dec. 27, 2018)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

A county-run domestic violence shelter is on the horizon.

Earlier this month, the Madison County commissioners greenlighted the project. The plan is to build a four-bedroom facility this spring. The Victim Witness Division of the county Prosecutor’s Office will manage the facility.

“The end goal is to have a safe place in our community for women to go, and men, too, who are victims of domestic violence,” said Brooke Musselman, victim advocate.

The county has been without a domestic violence shelter since A Friend’s House, a privately run shelter, closed over a year ago. County officials have been relying on shelters outside the county and temporary housing solutions to help victims.

“Law enforcement has been begging for a resource,” said Musselman, who with fellow victim advocate, Lindsey Christian, has handled more than 180 domestic violence cases this year.

The new shelter will take a trauma-informed approach to care.

“We will address victims’ needs based on their specific trauma and past trauma,” Musselman explained. “How each person handles life is different, so we will keep that in mind. Of course, safety is the first priority, but we will let them decide what their other priorities are.”

The shelter will operate around the clock. A director will handle day-to-day operations and manage staff. Initially, one of the county’s victim advocates will work part-time at the shelter to coordinate victim safety planning.

As the shelter grows, the goal is to have a victim advocate at the shelter full-time and add a full-time case manager, Musselman said. The case manager would help victims address any long-term barriers they may have to living independently, such as mental health concerns, drug or alcohol addiction, and homelessness.

The commissioners are footing the bill for construction of the shelter. They plan to run the project through Madison County Future Inc., the county’s community improvement corporation (CIC). Unlike government entities, CICs are not bound to prevailing wage standards for service contracts. David Kell, executive director of Madison County Future Inc., said the CIC will serve as project manager for the shelter construction. The commissioners will enter into a lease-to-buy agreement with the CIC to eventually take ownership of the building. Rob Slane, county administrator, will officially present the plan to the CIC board in January.

At least one of the facility’s four bedrooms will be private, as required by law. The other bedrooms will be set up for multiple occupancy, either as family rooms or bunk rooms for several individuals. A common living room, kitchen and pantry are planned, as are multiple washers and dryers, storage space, desks and computers, and office space. The location for the shelter has not been released.

As for funding for operations, earlier this year the Prosecutor’s Office applied for two Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grants through the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. They got one, which helps with the victim witness division’s overall expenses and boosted Christian’s job to full-time. This will allow her to spend part of her time working at the shelter.

Musselman said she and Christian will apply for the second VOCA grant again in 2019. The county should have a better chance at getting the grant once the shelter is built, she said. Those funds would help to pay for staffing, groceries, furniture, clothing, and other supplies. The grant application is due in July. The plan is to have the shelter built before then.

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