|CRC gone, replaced by GCDVS
The Gateway Center for Domestic Violence Services replaces the relatively new Children's Receiving Center in Gateway
THE MID-COUNTY MEMO
The new center's director, Martha Strawn Morris, briefly discussed her program last month at the Gateway Urban Renewal Program Advisory Committee meeting. That group's reaction was positive but, among its longer-serving members, mixed with some bitterness about the previous use of the property - and their tax increment dollars.
The new center will house workers from a variety of public and private agencies who deal with domestic violence. These include Multnomah County Legal Aide, the Department of Human Services, Volunteers of America, the Teen Advocates program, the Portland Police Bureau's Domestic Violence Program, a Victim's Advocate and Deputy District Attorney from the Multnomah County District Attorney's office, a child care provider trained to deal with and interpret the behavior of children exposed to violence, some workers from the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) and assistance providers who are African-American, Hispanic and Russian.
A number of groups and agencies have offered to provide volunteers for the center, and Morris says she is considering which ones to take in. Possibilities are people who can help victims with financial planning, and perhaps a chaplain. (The latter could counter claims by some abusers that their victims are commanded by God to obey them, and to reassure them that, in Morris's words, to leave an abusive relationship, you don't have to give up God too.) There will also be navigators who can steer victims to the services they need.
What will all these people do? The victim will get to decide what will happen here, Morris said. If I find that there's a situation where there's abuse of children taking place, I must report it to DHS (Oregon Department of Human Services). I have no choice. Navigators don't have the same responsibility. Ultimately, it must be reported, but we will try to do it in the most compassionate, supportive way.
Sensitivity seems to be a watchword for the new facility. Morris says she tried to persuade IRCO to move its entire domestic violence program to the new center; they decided to move half of it. Morris must provide services for victims from cultures with different views of women's and children's rights and responsibilities, but to do so without appearing to look down on that culture. I won't get a lot of chances to mess up. I have to get it right or lose the respect of those cultures.
Those who come can receive lots of advice on relevant issues. Those trying to leave abusive relationships can receive an Oregon Trail food assistance card and can apply for a domestic violence grant.
One of the biggest things that keeps victims from leaving an abusive situation is enough money for first and last month's rent. Survivors report getting wildly inconsistent responses to requests for these grants. Here there's more assurance you'll be listened to with sensitive ears. Our practice will match our policy.
Victims will sometimes (if it isn't contested) obtain restraining orders against abusers through a video hook-up from the Center to downtown. Right now, they can only be obtained from the Multnomah County Courthouse downtown. This is a place where victims report feeling really unsafe. This is a place where abusers know victims will come. True, there are sheriff's deputies at the front door, but there's no security in the halls, the offices, the courtrooms. We'll have more security for a smaller space.
What the center will not have is overnight accommodations of any kind, despite the fact that domestic violence shelters such as Bradley-Angle House say they must turn away 10 women for every one they aid due to lack of space. While acknowledging the point, Morris said, Do we continue to focus entirely on emergency services, or to use some resources for preventive services that shelters can't provide? If we help a woman so that she doesn't need shelter, we're saving that shelter space for someone else.
The city has allocated funding for the program for the next three years, and Multnomah County is donating space in the building, where the Children's Receiving Center was formerly located.
In answer to committee questions, Morris said that the center is now vacant. Christie School, which had operated the Children's Receiving Center, withdrew from its contract earlier this year.
Committee members were courteous to Morris. Linda Robinson of Hazelwood later told the Memo that the new program should be better for Gateway, since it is likely to draw more activity to the area. However, several expressed some bitterness.
In 2004, when the Gateway Urban Renewal District was being organized, Multnomah County selected 102nd and Burnside as the site for the Children's Receiving Center. It would provide temporary housing for children declared wards of the court because their parents were dead, incapacitated, in jail or declared to be unfit to be guardians. Children's advocates in public and private agencies said such a facility was desperately needed; they told horror stories of children being driven around in squad cars for hours while police officers looked for a place to put them. They were sometimes forced to sleep on the floor of an office because nothing else was available. At the Receiving Center, they were well cared for by professionals until a suitable longer-term home was found for them.
Community leaders did not dispute the need for the facility, but questioned the location. Children delivered by squad cars, they said, did not need the easy accessibility of a site on the MAX light rail line. On the other hand, it was prime development land. Its proposed use ensured that it would never generate much foot traffic, as light rail development is supposed to do, and never a dime of taxes to help pay for district goals. It not only wasn't supporting the district's revitalization goals, it was 180 degrees at odds with them.
It was thus particularly galling when supporters of the Receiving Center, led by City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, called for allocating $2.2 million in urban renewal tax increment financing to fill a funding gap for completing the center. This was during the first year, when a district's resources are limited and they usually feel pressured to spend all they have on projects that will generate increased tax revenue, or public improvements that can lead to such projects. The Opportunity Gateway Program Advisory Committee resisted, but advocates such as the League of Women Voters accused them of selfishness. Advisory Committee Chair Dick Cooley was eventually able to bargain the urban renewal contribution down to $1 million.
In the last year, Multnomah County reduced funding for the Receiving Center, reflecting the general reduction in government resources, to the point where Christie School could no longer afford to operate it. While the Receiving Center had a capacity of 16 beds, but seldom filled more than three to six of them. The extra room created extra overhead costs that proved hard to handle, Saltzman told the Memo that the county has since awarded a contract to another provider, which houses the children it cares for in foster homes - the children for whom the facility was essential. It was Saltzman, as well, who called for funding for the new facility.
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