More than a decade ago, The Michael Bolton Charities supported a Family Justice Center in Brooklyn, New York, which has proven to be extremely successful. The Brooklyn Family Justice Center (BFJC) provides “one-stop shopping” for domestic violence survivors by placing lawyers, police, dedicated domestic violence prosecutors, counselors, clergy, and other service providers under one roof.
More recently, The MBC funded a feasibility study in Connecticut in 2015 to determine where such a Center would be most successful in responding to local need. That independent study recommended the New Haven region, and The MBC subsequently funded a two-day strategic planning session in New Haven, bringing together experts and elected officials to determine how best to proceed.
A Family Justice Center is a one-stop, full service support center providing an extraordinary range of essential professional and advocacy services to individuals at risk due to domestic violence. The Family Justice Center model has been identified as a best practice by the U.S. Department of Justice in domestic violence intervention and prevention services. It is an approach that is working effectively across the country, with solid reviews from professionals and life-changing results.
Experience has shown that with the full force of the criminal justice system and agencies providing services together in a single location to address criminal, civil, legal, health, housing, education and other serious concerns, victims of domestic violence and their families can break the cycle of terror and violence and move on to productive and rewarding lives.
As a result of those determined efforts, with The MBC as an effective catalyst, a Family Justice Center is now a reality in New Haven.The HOPE Family Justice Center of Greater New Haven, which had a soft opening in 2018 and moved into a permanent location in 2019, consists of a multi-disciplinary team of professionals who work together, under one roof, to provide coordinated services to victims of domestic violence.
Provided services include advocacy and legal services, housing assistance, on-site childcare, an opportunity to meet with police officer or prosecutors on-site, bilingual services and accessibility accommodations, connections to clinical services and sexual assault services and a trauma-informed environment.
Responding During COVID-19
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the HOPE Center modified the delivery of services and care. They became a call in center instead of a walk-in center. They sent out public service announcements alerting people how to reach the Center through the City of New Haven and partners in the community. They became a resource hub for providers attempting to reach victims of abuse. They updated their Resource manual to include new warm contact people at service delivery agencies.
Recent data, during the time of COVID, is extremely concerning. The HOPE Center reports “We have seen an increase of violent crimes, shootings, strangulations, relocations fleeing from abuse and food insecurities and housing assistance. We are working closely with our law enforcement, advocates and social service providers to access services without delay in services.”
Fundraisers have been held to cover the costs of basic necessities such as food, household needs and relocation costs. Efforts have intensified to increase the number of participating Partners and collaborators, to better provide for immediate and direct access to services.
Of particular concern, after COVID-19 restrictions took effect, referrals decreased since the HOPE Center was not physically open. More recently, they have begun to opening the site with scheduled walk-ins and set up the Center with adherence to COVID-19 parameters.
The HOPE Center has seen 1,137 visits to the Center and served 430 clients – demonstrating that clients are coming back for further assistance after crisis and coordination calls, and underscoring the vital importance of the HOPE Family Justice Center of Greater New Haven