Editor’s note: This is the first story in a series about Card-inal Point. The organization is Canadian County’s Family Justice Center model.
Throughout her life, Cardinal Point CEO Kristie Chandler has been no stranger to trauma, as she knows people who have experienced domestic violence.
She said she has learned more about survivors through their stories than any training under her belt.
“It’s an honor to do the work,” said Chandler. “But it’s also bringing forth a responsibility to take forth the wishes and the dreams of survivors in our county and make it happen.”
In 2018, Canadian County commissioners and leaders with the county Children’s Justice Center made it happen for local survivors. With the help from Alliance for Hope International, which offers trainings on what Family Justice Centers can provide to their communities, Cardinal Point was created.
“We wanted to be a point on that path for hope and for health,” Chandler said.
The more than 5,000-square-foot organization is El Reno’s official model of a Family Justice Center. Cardinal Point’s building is an addition to the Children’s Justice Center, which is located at 7905 State Highway 66.
“We understand that survivors are on all kinds of different paths in their lives,” Chandler said. “They’re not right or wrong — they are the paths that, typically, survivors are on with safety in mind for themselves.”
AHI developed a strategic plan with Cardinal Point’s partnering agencies to show what areas within the community must be met for survivors. The need for a coordinator surfaced, and Chandler stepped into her role in 2019, as an employee of the District Attorney’s Office.
Funding from the commissioners and several grants, like the Victims of Crime grant, which is part of a program under the U.S. Depar-tment of Justice, for more than $213,000 make Cardinal Point’s daily operations functional.
Chandler said she will write for the grant again in March.
The more than $4 million organization became a public trust in October 2020, and as of Jan. 1, 2021, its staff became employees of the trust.
Its two staff members have been working around the clock to ensure people are aware of the community organization through their Facebook page Cardinal Point: A Direction for Hope. Because the pandemic has encouraged people to remain inside their homes, many people, specifically women, have been diverted from leaving violent situations.
Chandler said they want women to know that protective orders are still available to them, as well as reaching out for help through Cardinal Point’s website cardinalpointok.org. Through the website, people may chat with one of the staff members over message or by calling.
Yukon native Jennifer Coulson, who is the organization’s client services coordinator, has worked in domestic violence services for more than a decade. With experience serving in Oklahoma County, she saw how services were easily accessible for many.
However, in Canadian County, transportation is a barrier for most, as there is not a bus system.
“(Cardinal Point is) going to hopefully ease the struggles that survivors face and accessing services on top of what they’ve already struggled with,” said Coulson.
Criminal Justice graduate Amanda Hillyard is Cardinal Point’s client service navigator. Hillyard has put together a list of resources, ranging from local pantries and clothing closets to shelters outside of the county.
“The biggest thing that I think maybe hinder people from reaching out is not knowing what to expect when they do,” said Hillyard.
She also said Cardinal Point will prevent survivors from going through a 10-step process of reaching out to providers, as they will have the support prepared for them.
“Just really being able to alleviate some of that anxiety that they may be dealing with and asking for help is, I think, the most important aspect of my job here,” Hillyard said.
While there are food and clothing resources available for Canadian County residents through Yukon nonprofits — Compassionate Hands, Manna Pantry and Yukon Sharing — there is no adult shelter in the area.
“If you want to stay here in this county and you just need to get out of your home for a little while to think about your options and your next steps, there isn’t any safe place to go,” Chandler said.
The organization continues to look for avenues where they can provide shelter, she said.
“Domestic violence is the leading cause for homelessness for women and children,” Chandler said.
Residents can receive many services under one roof
Cardinal Point is the “shopping mall” of services, Chandler said.
“We want to be the hub to offer the space,” Chandler said. “We want to work together to get information out there to try to build trust with survivors in the community and work alongside them to say, ‘Help us build something that’s responsive to the needs of survivors because we don’t have all the answers …,’” Chandler said.
Cardinal Point will provide legal assistance on site.
“We need attorneys to help us meet the need that survivors have on a pro-bono or low-bono-basis,” Chandler said.
The organization will also have:
• a full-time officer with the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office;
• three full-time Intervention and Crisis Advocacy Network representatives;
• CART House officials, which is a child advocacy center that provides forensic interviews and support to children and their nonoffending caregivers;
• La Luz representatives, a Latino-based domestic violence service provider and;
• Cheyenne and Arapaho representatives with the tribe’s domestic violence and sexual assault program.
Cardinal Point is also looking for registered nurses to be a part of their on-site Sexual Assault Nurse Exam program for adults. SANE nurses perform forensic exams on people who have been sexually assaulted.
One of the closest programs is at a YMCA in Oklahoma City. Chandler said it is important that Cardinal Point provides the service for Canadian County residents, as some may be deterred if they must travel to Oklahoma County.
The organization’s data indicated that on average about 15 county residents were served per year at the YMCA’s SANE program. Currently, Canadian County has two SANE nurses.
Cardinal Point is also looking for volunteers to come on board. Volunteers will go through a 40-hour training course to learn how to respond to survivors’ needs.
There are five volunteers so far, Chandler said. People who are interested in becoming a volunteer can email Coulson at [email protected]
A grand opening for Cardinal Point has yet to be determined. However, people may call the staff at 405-295-6191 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Oklahoma’s 24-hour hotline is also available by calling 1-800-522-7233.