By CHRIS EVERSOLE
Funding a family justice center will be tough, but the effort is essential.
That’s what a group working on the funding concluded Thursday as it met at Youth & Family Services between Yukon and El Reno.
“This is really hard,” said Assistant District Attorney Tommy Humphries, who is helping coordinate the four work groups that are striving to create a family justice center.
The center would provide a shelter for victims of domestic violence in Canadian County, including children, as well as providing other services.
Kristie Chandler, who started this month as the coordinator for the project, put the need in perspective.
People who commit domestic violence are dangerous, noted Chandler, who has 17 years of experience in helping victims.
“Our goal is that people don’t die in our community and that our homes are safe,” she said.
Domestic violence is a public safety issue, she added.
“People who strangle and threaten victims also attack cops,” she said.
Seventy-five percent of the funding for family justice centers nationally comes from government, and the greatest source is money from the federal Victims of Crime Act, she noted.
The two county commissioners at the meeting said they didn’t see Canadian County government as the primary funding source the launch the local center.
“I don’t think it’s necessary right off the bat,” Commissioner David Anderson said.
The three county commissioners don’t see the county as the lead agency, said Commissioner Marc Hader.
“We’re not looking to be in charge, and we don’t want to provide all the resources,” he said.
Anderson and Hader said that, perhaps, the county could provide space for the family justice center, probably through paying rent on an existing building.
The group should look to major foundations and philanthropists, said member Jay Emory, who is the president of BancFirst for the Yukon and Mustang area.
“There are all these people with pockets of money,” he said.
Gov. Kevin Stitt has the goal of co-locating offices of various state human services providers as a way of improving collaboration, the group noted.
John Schneider, the executive director of Youth & Family Services, agreed to find out how the group could align itself with the governor’s effort.
Anderson, who is co-chair of the work group, emphasized that a large group of stakeholders has been setting the groundwork for a family justice center.
Many of them are from groups that already serve victims.
“What appeals to me is to find a way to improve what we’re already doing,” Anderson said.
“Let’s dream big but start small. Let the need drive the vision.”
The group discussed finding a governance structure for the family justice center initiative, probably as a nonprofit or foundation.
It also talked about the importance of having a name that captures the center’s vision.
The family justice center in Fort Worth, Texas, is part of an organization called One Safe Place.
“We like help, hope and healing in a name,” Chandler said.