Shelter requests go down; domestic violence aid rises

Posted: Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The number of women and children seeking shelter at the LeeShore Center in Kenai has gone down between fiscal year 2003 and 2004, but the number of victims of domestic violence or sexual assault seeking non-residential services rose, according to the center's director.

The statistics are among numbers carefully being re-viewed, especially this month, which is designated National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

"For emergency shelter, we had 84 women and 71 children in fiscal year 2004," said Cheri Smith, executive director of LeeShore, who explained the fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.

"They were here for a total of 3,989 bed nights," she said.

During the previous fiscal year, 111 women sought emergency shelter with 91 children for a combined total of 5,600 bed nights.

However, between the same two reporting periods, the center, formerly known as the Women's Resource and Crisis Center, helped 244 walk-in clients in fiscal year 2003 compared to 373 in the past year.

LeeShore is a 32-bed shelter that provides safety and support to victims of domestic violence or sexual assault.

In addition to the emergency shelter, LeeShore has a transitional living center for people with homelessness or substance abuse issues, but who do not have immediate safety needs. The transitional house has a 12-bed group residential setting, where clients can learn back-to-school and back-to-work skills.

LeeShore also has an independent living facility in Kenai with 13 beds in four units.

The emergency shelter sees clients for an average stay of eight to 10 weeks, according to Smith, who said, "We're lucky we can help people for a longer period of time than many other facilities."

The shelter currently is averaging 12 to 15 people per day, Smith said, and has had as many as 22 people staying there during the past year.

In the transitional living center, people can stay up to two years, if needed.

One of the reasons the women's crisis center changed its name effective Oct. 1, is that it offers services to more than just women, according to Smith.

"We have the batterers intervention program for men, the child-care assistance program and the child-care food program," she said.

The batterers intervention program, which served 169 participants in fiscal year 2004, is a 48-week, state-certified program for men who have been guilty of domestic violence.

"The majority -- 98 percent -- are court-ordered," Smith said.

The program offers batterers educational tools for learning nonviolent behavior.

Evaluated in terms of recidivism, or the tendency to commit the same crime following completion of training, the program has seen six people re-offend among the 112 men who have completed the course, according to Smith.

"Nationally, one-third of the men (sent by the courts) never show up for the program, one-third drop out or become non-compliant during the course, and one-third complete," Smith said.

"We're pretty right on with the national numbers."

Men are allowed to choose between attending on Mondays from 3 to 5 p.m., Tuesdays from 7 to 9 p.m. or Thursdays from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Classes cost $100 for the first two orientation sessions, plus $25 each classroom session over the following 46 weeks.

"Men who can show need or an inability to pay, may perform community work service if they can't pay," Smith said.

Three hours of community work service equal one $25 class payment.

LeeShore's child-care assistance program provides subsidies for day care for low to moderate income families. The child-care food program reimburses day care providers a portion of the cost of serving nutritious meals to children in their care.

Smith recommends that victims of domestic violence or sexual assault call police if in immediate danger. If not in immediate danger, the victims can come to the center on South Spruce Street, which is staffed 24 hours a day, or call the crisis line at 283-7257.

The center, which marks its 25th anniversary of serving the Kenai Peninsula next year, conducted a community domestic violence and sexual assault awareness workshop last week and is marking Domestic Violence Awareness Month with proclamations by the mayors of Soldotna, Kenai and the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

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