Friday, March 06, 2009

Family Justice Center offers many services at one location

Caption: Top -Lisa Delvillar visits with Cathryn Curley during the grand opening of the Family Justice Center. Left - The outside of the Family Justice Center at 414 W. First St, the old water and gas building.

By Peggy Anderson

When Lisa Delvillar started working at Safe Haven Shelter for Battered Women in 2003 her co-workers were intrigued with the job she had had just prior to coming to Duluth. Delvillar had worked for a family justice center in San Diego; at the time it was the only such facility in the nation. All the services that a woman needed when leaving a violent relationship were under one roof including legal advice, police, social workers, housing information, child-care, job training, etc.

Now Duluth is one of 15 such centers across the nation. Located in the old Water and Gas Building, 414 West First Street, the Family Justice Center occupies the first floor. Women in Construction remodeled the floor and Susie Vanderstein was the interior decorator. The building has a security entrance and is warm and inviting on the inside.

For six years the staff and board of Safe Haven worked hard to search out funding and the right location to see their vision of a Family Justice Center in Duluth become reality. “We knew it had to be near the Civic Circle to be convenient for our partners to walk,” said Cathryn Curley, director of the Duluth Family Justice Center. Most partners are at the Family Justice Center part-time and come from locations such as the police station, courthouse or County Government Building. Safe Haven secured the funds to purchase the first floor in the building.

Delvillar, now working in the Twin Cities, attended the grand opening of the Duluth Family Justice Center. “I was merely the messenger,” Delvillar said in an interview during the center’s grand opening in February.

The Family Justice Center is composed of several offices and different spaces. One for intake, police, legal advocates, social services, Legal Aid, County Victim Witness Advocate, City Attorney, Housing Access Advocate, a therapist, and a jobs and training staff. There is also a salon, a small and large conference room, a multipurpose room, an exam room, an interview room, and a lounge/kitchen for women to meet and relax.

Though many of the people providing the services listed above will be at the center only part-time, Curley said, “We still felt like we can make those appointments and make them happen.” Women will not be intimidated by having to locate and visit yet another new place for another related service. “They know it is friendly here, and we can sit in with them at their appointments.”

A woman doesn’t have to stay at the Safe Haven Shelter to use these services. It is for women who
have experienced violence either past or present in their personal relationship. Contact the Family Justice Center at 623-1000. Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Naomi Yaeger-Bischoff contributed to this story.