Farnham Family Services Executive Director Eric Breese, above left, and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, above right, in a 2018 press conference. Schemer Wednesday announced a major rant to aid Oswego County's services for victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse

OSWEGO — U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced Wednesday nearly a half-million dollars for agencies that provide support services to victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse in Oswego County.

The $450,000 in funds secured through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Transitional Housing Grant Assistance Program will aid nonprofit human services agency Oswego County Opportunities (OCO) and its partnering agencies to provide relief and relocation to safe, private housing units around central New York for 36 survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse crimes.

OCO Executive Director Diane Cooper-Currier said the addition of funds can continue to help individuals who have suffered from crimes of abuse to “re-establish their safe lives” through OCO’s Services to Aid Families (SAF) initiative. 

“Those who have experienced these issues can be provided with ongoing transitional support to help them stay safe, take care of their kids, go to school and find a job,” she said.

Cristy King, the director of crisis and development at OCO, said the 36 survivors and their  families who will be aided through the grant will live in a housing unit of their choice anywhere in the county.  

“They will hold the lease in his or her own name,” King said. “Rental assistance will be paid directly to the landlord. This model has proven to be successful with current and previous participants and allows the survivor to remain in the unit once the financial assistance has ended, thus eliminating the need to relocate again.”

Currently, OCO also provides transitional housing services for populations who suffer from chemical dependency and medical disabilities. The nonprofit partners with organizations such as Oswego County Department of Social Services (DSS), the Housing and Homeless Coalition of CNY and Farnham Family Services — an organization aiming to prevent and treat substance use disorder in Oswego County — to provide said services.

“There are a lot of housing needs around people with substance use disorders,” Farnham Director Eric Breese said, noting residents taking advantage of transitional housing programs will benefit from the added stability in their lives. “(The added funds) are a welcome addition. When their basic needs are met, they are much more able to focus on their recovery.”

Poverty is also one of the factors that “has a major impact” on victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence, according to King.

In its 2018 annual report, OCO noted 18.3 percent of the Oswego County population lives below the poverty line, which public policy research organization Center for American Progress has drawn at an annual income of $24,860 for a family of four in New York state.  

“Approximately 90 percent of victims exiting the SAF shelter lack the financial resources for a security deposit; 72 percent of women reported having limited or no income and 98 percent fell below 200 percent of poverty status,” King said, noting SAF provides assistance in the form of 2,000 bednights of shelter every year. “In addition, 84 percent lack employment and 24 percent lack the education necessary to successfully obtain employment.”

The New York senators praised OCO and pledged to continue to seek funding for individuals who have suffered from sexual abuse and domestic violence.

“Domestic and dating violence is never acceptable and we must do everything we can to both prevent it in the first place and take care of those who are victimized by it,” Schumer said in a press release issued Wednesday, praising the role OCO plays in helping victims of said crimes “get back on their feet.” 

Sen. Gillibrand condemned sexual assault and domestic violence incidents as “devastating problems.” 

“We must do everything we can to prevent them,” she said via the joint press release. “It is important that we support the survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault as they seek assistance.

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