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Family Justice Center: Funds, and time, short for safe house

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Family Justice Center officials say a new safe house for battered women should be open by mid-February.

That’s the good news.

Officials at the Georgetown County non-profit agency say the state Department of Social Services has provided only $25,000 of the $147,000 needed to operate the facility next year.

The Family Justice Center received permission in October to operate a safe house for battered women and their children from DSS after the county’s only facility was closed due to financial problems at Citizens Against Spousal Abuse.

“We have a lot of potential funding sources,” says Alicia Barnes, chairman of the Family Justice Center board of directors, “but with the fiscal cliff we are not at all certain what kind of money we are going to be getting. We have not had a definite answer from DSS. Because money had been allocated for CASA, we thought we would get some of that, but there hasn’t been a definite answer yet about what we are going to do.”

Barnes said the Family Justice Center had not planned to pursue a shelter for women, but the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office, Georgetown Police Department and the solicitor’s office wanted to try.

The purpose of the Family Justice Center is to consolidate agencies that help victims of domestic abuse through the criminal justice system, with health-care, education and employment. A safe house seemed to be a natural extension, despite the fact it is not part of the program’s model.

“The whole idea of a Family Justice Center,” Barnes said, “is to be responsive to the needs of a community. We contacted other centers and found some in similar circumstances. It’s not outside the scope of operations.”

Neither of the group’s executive directors, Beverly Kennedy or Vicki Bourus, thought Georgetown County would get its own shelter. “Vicki was positive they would not want to break up that district,” said Barnes, “but when nobody stepped forward to run both counties, we were selected to run a shelter in Georgetown County and the Center for Women and Children pursued a proposal to run a shelter in Horry County. Nobody wanted to do both. The state agreed to run them separately.”

Barnes said Chris Woodruff, director of the Georgetown Housing Authority, has been instrumental in engaging a small group of people to get the safe house renovated and repaired. Barnes said it was in “pretty sorry shape” after CASA closed.

“It will have new appliances, new floors and new bathrooms,” Kennedy said. “It will be a really nice place. Chris gets a lot of the credit for the design work.”

The Family Justice Center leases the safe house from the Georgetown Housing Authority.

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