Oswego, NY - Director of Oswego County Opportunities Crisis & Development Services Cristy King has announced that the Services to Aid Families program has been awarded a three year $3 million grant from the NYS Office of Victim Services under the Victim and Witness Assistance Grant Program. The grant will help sustain and expand critical services needed for survivors of domestic and sexual violence in Oswego County.
“This funding is allowing our Services to Aid Families (SAF) program to assist more survivors by addressing current gaps in services that have created challenges for survivors to sustain personal safety for many years,” said King.
The expansion of services include direct legal assistance provided by an in-house attorney, transitional housing & relocation, trauma-informed children’s services, emergency shelter and transportation to individuals in need of wheelchair-accessible services, increase staff-provided transportation services, coordinated services to increase access for victims who also are affected by mental health and substance abuse disorders, and increase outreach and awareness to inform providers and individuals of victim rights and how to access victim service resources in the community.
“Having the ability to offer free legal services through an in-house attorney is a tremendous asset,” said King. “The attorney will be dedicated to serving survivors we work with on a number of legal issues such as immigration status, trafficking, U-Visa applications, custody issues and other legal issues that survivors may be in need of as a result of the abuse. We have needed this for years and this grant is making it possible.”
One of the more impactful benefits of the grant is that SAF’s 18-bed Licensed Domestic Violence Shelter will now become ADA compliant and accessible for survivors in need of emergency housing. Many shelters across the country are not ADA compliant as they simply do not have the money and it is not mandated. This grant allows OCO’s SAF program to widen doors, add ramps, and make other necessary renovations needed to provide accessibility to survivors and/or their children with a physical disability.
The grant will also provide a big boost to housing assistance that SAF offers. “Affordable housing is difficult to find,” said King. “It is one of the biggest barriers to overcome for a victim of domestic violence. Their situation may not have allowed them to work or have any control of finances. The majority of survivors SAF serves lack the financial resources needed to establish and maintain independent housing free from violence. Often what they receive through government assistance is not enough to cover the full cost of rent and utilities for housing that is adequate to meet their needs. SAF will now be able to supplement that government assistance so that they will be able to afford safe housing for themselves and their children. We can help them get their life back together by covering their basic costs of living while they focus on keeping their children in school and finding employment.”
The expansion of housing services will include moving or relocation costs, including travel expenses associated with relocating, one-time costs associated with security deposits, up to 12 months of rent, furniture and other household items, cost of renting a storage unit, and veterinary expenses for pets.
The SAF program will also see a much needed increase in staff. “We will be adding six new positions,” said King. “Each of which advocate on behalf of victims regarding justice system issues, children services, and coordinate our outreach, training presentations, and prevention efforts.
In 2018, SAF, the domestic violence and rape crisis program for Oswego County, provided crisis, supportive advocacy, and educational services to more than 600 survivors of domestic violence throughout Oswego County. “Our Advocates work very hard to ensure victims are provided with information, support, and every possible option available to help them through this difficult transition. It can be scary and intimidating. We work side by side with them to provide the best possible experience. It is our job to speak up for survivors, assist them in any way possible when seeking safety and to be there to offer our support” added King.
SAF is the sole provider of comprehensive Domestic Violence services in Oswego County and is licensed by NYS Office of Children and Family Services. If you or someone you know is a survivor of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence or stalking please call the Crisis Hotline at (315) 342-1600. The hotline is staffed by trained counselors and is available 24 hours a day/seven days a week.
OCO is a private, non-profit agency that has been supporting communities throughout Oswego County since 1966. A member agency of the United Way of Greater Oswego County, OCO provides more than 50 vital services throughout 100 separate locations. For more information, visit www.oco.org. Did you know? It’s OCO!