SPRINGFIELD – Champaign County may soon have its own domestic violence shelter.
County residents have been using the services of the Clark County domestic violence shelter or the Caring Kitchen’s emergency shelter, but grants and other funding sources are making it possible to locate a shelter in Champaign County.
“Project Woman has served Champaign County survivors and their families for many years, however, the majority of available services have required sheltering in Clark County, causing transportation and other logistical barriers,” said Project Woman Executive Director Laura Baxter. “Adding a local Domestic Violence Shelter and Rape Crisis Center will bring a higher level of safety for victims that need it and a great complement to the already strong collaboration within the community.”
Project Woman received a $20,000 grant from the Mary Kay Foundation prior to Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October. That funding will help set up a Champaign County domestic violence shelter and upgrade the outdoor play area and green space at the shelter in Clark County.
Project Woman also receives funding from the Ohio Attorney General’s Victims of Crime Act for its domestic violence services. Project Woman will receive approximately $198,000 for its programs for 2015-16, according to information from the Attorney General’s Office.
Baxter said staff are looking into a couple locations as a potential 12-bed domestic violence shelter, with a goal of getting it set up by Jan. 1, 2016. Victims currently use either the 16-bed Clark County shelter, or have housing available through the Caring Kitchen emergency shelter.
“The need is significant,” she said. “It’s really very sobering to realize the amount of incidents and the need for a strong partnership to support those fleeing from domestic and intimate partner violence.”
Baxter said the Clark County shelter serves an average of 22 people on a regular basis, which does not count bassinets for infants or toddlers. The shelter serves Clark, Champaign and Madison counties.
“It is a wrong assumption that (domestic violence) only happens in big cities,” she added. “In rural communities, there are other challenges for why people stay in abusive relationships and abusive environments.”
Baxter said geographic distance and lack of other housing options can contribute to a person not being willing to leave an abusive relationship.
Project Woman opened an office last year at 40 Monument Square in Urbana, co-locating with Community Action. The group got its start in 1974 as a one-room rape crisis center. The organization now also has a campus advocate at Urbana University each week. An emergency shelter and rape crisis center provides a safe location for victims and their children, individual counseling, support groups, case management, victim advocacy, community education and prevention, children’s programming, 24-hour hospital advocacy and a transitional housing program.
A 24/7 crisis line (800-634-9893) allows victims to call for information or referral, assistance in accessing services and reaching an advocate who can provide support. The line also offers contact with an on-call advocate who can provide crisis response to hospitals or local law enforcement.
For more information about Project Woman, visit projectwomanohio.org.
Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.