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Lt. Gov. Helps Break Ground on New West County ‘Family Justice Center’

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Lt. Gov. Helps Break Ground on New West County ‘Family Justice Center’

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By Bay City News


California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom joined police and local elected officials in Richmond this morning to break ground on a $1.8 million resource center for victims of sexual and domestic violence and their families.
The new West Contra Costa Family Justice Center, located at 256 24th St., is a partnership among the county, the city of Richmond, its Police Department and local domestic violence victims’ advocacy organizations. The facility will consolidate both city and county resources to create a one-stop shop where victims of domestic or sexual violence, elder abuse and related crimes can get crisis response, case management, legal and health resources and access to safe housing, county officials said.

The center is set to relocate next fall from its current location within a Police Department substation at Hilltop Mall to the new, 7,200-square-foot building that once housed a mental health intake facility. Over the past year and a half, and open just one day per week, the interim center has served some 500 local families, police Chief Chris Magnus said.

The new facility will have the capacity to serve many more local domestic violence victims, a large number of whom are from groups including low-income residents and immigrants who may be more reluctant to report domestic violence due to language or cultural barriers, he said.

The services they receive there will help stop the destructive cycles of violence that often start at home, he said. “Violence in the community is related to violence in the home and this new facility will provide more resources for victims of domestic violence, creating a healthier and safer community overall,” the chief said.

Rita Alfaro, 25, a volunteer at the Family Justice Center, said she has seen first-hand how children in families suffering from domestic violence can begin to heal with help from the community.

During a weeklong summer camp program with about 40 children between 7 and 13 years old affiliated with the center, she said, kids who were usually detached and uncommunicative learned to open up and relate to their peers and adults. “By the end of that week, everyone was really working together,” she recalled.

Known as “Camp Hope,” the program is “an opportunity for young victims to reclaim their childhood,” she said. Alfaro said the new center will be a welcome change from its current location, which is sandwiched between a WalMart and JC Penney, where many people don’t know to look for it. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who hoisted a golden shovel alongside city and county leaders, police and domestic violence victims’ advocates, praised Alfaro and the center’s many other volunteers and supporters.

Newsom said the new facility is a sign of the progress crime-ridden Richmond has made in recent years and its commitment to lifting residents out of tough circumstances. “We celebrate today a rebirth, a renewal of community spirit that’s always defined the best of Richmond,” he said. “You haven’t given up on this community, and you’re starting to see the contours of real change,” Newsom said.

While county and city leaders touted today’s groundbreaking as a major milestone, some also noted that the project was 10 years in the making and involved plenty of wrangling among the city of Richmond, the county, district attorney’s office and local organizations including STAND for Families Free of Violence, Community Violence Solutions and others. “It’s not ‘Mission Accomplished’,” Magnus said.

The county deeded the shuttered building on 24th Street, a former mental health intake facility valued at $900,000 to the city, which is using $1.7 million in bond funding to cover construction and renovations, officials said. The bond money will have to be repaid, and the center’s future stability will depend on the continued partnership among a local government, non-governmental organizations, community members and corporate sponsors.

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