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Gateway Domestic Violence Services Center marks first year


It was not just Parkrose celebrating a birthday last month. The Gateway Center for Domestic Violence Services marked a year of operations at East Burnside Street and 102nd Avenue.

Gateway Center for Domestic Violence Services staff and “navigators” from collaborating agencies are, from left, Taylor St. Clair, YWCA; Karina Rutova, City of Portland; Wendy Nicholas,YWCA; Fowzia Abdulle, Bradley Angle House and Elvia Konfrst, Catholic Charities.
Courtesy Martha Strawn Morris
In a report to the Multnomah County Commission last month, Executive Director Martha Strawn Morris reported that more than 2,000 adults and 750 children had paid 7,000 visits to the facility.

One of its main offerings is enabling domestic violence victims to obtain restraining orders against abusers, and last year visitors obtained 557 such orders, nearly a quarter of all obtained in the county. This represented 90 percent of those who sought such orders at the center, as compared to 85 percent at the downtown county courthouse.

The center asks clients to fill out evaluation forms after each visit, and 66 percent do so, Morris said. Of these, 99 percent declared themselves satisfied with the service the received. “If I saw any dip in those numbers I'd look at our program quality,” she told the Commission. Nonetheless, she said, she is arranging for a more in-depth analysis by Portland State University next year.

Morris said there are four key elements that make the center a success:

•All domestic violence services are under one roof. The GCDVS have representatives of many public and private agencies. “They offer a tremendous variety of services,” Morris said. Historically, the interaction between service providers “hasn't always been great,” she said, and having to visit them in multiple locations has sapped the resources and the will of violence victims. Of course, having so many providers, offering so many different courses of action, could be confusing for clients - but that is where the second element comes in.

•Clients are assigned a Navigator to help guide them to suitable help. “It's absolutely key to have knowledgeable, neutral non-judgmental front line assistance,” Morris said. “Thirty percent of our clients say they don't know what they want when they come.” The Navigators are supplied by Native American Youth and Family Center; Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon; Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization; Bradley-Angle House; YWCA of Greater Portland and Catholic Charities. Navigators can provide translations in eight languages. In their evaluations, clients have said the Navigators “Put me at ease”; “Helped me understand”; and “Made me comfortable.”

•The center provides childcare during client visits. “This is critically important,” Morris said. “We couldn't do the same work if moms didn't have a safe place to place their kids” while negotiating the system.

•The ability to obtain restraining orders alone is significant. Before the center opened, restraining orders were approved at the downtown county courthouse only; many victims found this atmosphere neither comfortable nor safe. The center has a locked entry door, visitors must state their business, and a Multnomah County sheriff's deputy is on guard.

Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury supported Morris's statement that clients need help in determining their course of action. “Many ask for shelter simply because they know it exists,” she said. “Before this center opened, I questioned whether this would be just another door to an already squeezed system. It's clear that's not the case. You're providing new services.”

Another commissioner, Judy Shiprack, asked if Morris had any insight into the cause of domestic violence. “We're seeking a practical approach to prevent this from occurring in our community at all.”

Morris had no easy solution but said that part of the answer is “how we raise our boys and men to relate to women. We're pushing back just by existing.”

As the statistics above indicate, most center clients need more than one visit. In fact, Morris later told the Memo an even more depressing statistic: Victims who leave their abusers usually return to them, as many as eight times, a phenomenon that tries the patience of friends and relatives. Promises to reform, vestiges of the affection the couple once shared, and the difficulties of trying to fend for themselves often cause victims to rethink their bid for freedom.

“These are hard times for everyone, and the chances of a woman ending up in poverty are greater than they would be for a man,” she said.

Not all who come are necessarily destitute. “Some of our clients have resources, they're not in poverty, but still need support,” Morris says.

And, the center itself? It receives $422,000 annually from the City of Portland plus a one-time grant of an additional $200,000 this year, free rent for its 11,000 square foot facility plus the use of a deputy and deputy district attorney from Multnomah County, and $50,000 from the federal government. Aside from the one-time city money, Morris says, the center's support “feels pretty secure. As long as we can demonstrate we're doing important work, we'll be all right.”

No appointments are scheduled for first time participants. Walk-ins are served in order of their arrival. They could use some help. In addition to the professional navigators, they rely on Hospitality Volunteers to help them get settled in the building. They can also use women and children's clothing and feminine hygiene and beauty products. The GCDVS shelter's website is For more information, or to volunteer, call 503-988-6400 during business hours, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
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