VAWA grants funding to local agencies


SIDNEY – Local agencies serving victims of domestic violence in Shelby and Miami counties were awarded grant funding by the Violence Against Women Act grant announced last week.

According to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, the Violence Against Women Act grants will award a total of $3.6 million in funding to organizations across the state committed to helping victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.

In Shelby County, New Choices, Inc. has been awarded two grants totaling $31,583 from this funding.

“This VAWA funding from the state is an essential piece of our operating budget. We are grateful that the legislatures in Ohio support our mission,” New Choices Executive Director Danielle Sweitzer said.

New Choices was incorporated as a non-profit agency in 1983 and is the only agency currently serving victims and survivors of domestic violence and abuse in Shelby County. The agency helps men, women, teenagers and children through individual crises wherever abuse may arise. According to Sweitzer, the VAWA grant money will be put toward the general operations of the agency.

“VAWA grant money will help New Choices stay fully staffed and available for victims of domestic violence to seek assistance 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When someone calls for help or appears at our door for safety, someone will always be here to answer,” Sweitzer said.

Support services that will be supplemented with the funding include a 24 hour crisis call/text hotline, emergency shelter, criminal court advocacy, assistance with obtaining a protection order, crisis intervention, safety planning and community outreach and education.

Sweitzer said that New Choices has received financial cuts from federal and state funding sources over the past few years, and have relied heavily on donations from community members of Shelby County. The agency has also sought out grant opportunities to make up for any loss of funding. Because of this, New Choices has not had to make any reductions to staff.

“Making sure that our services are available in person, 24 hours a day to victims of Domestic Violence in Shelby County is our top priority,” Sweitzer said.

The Family Abuse Shelter of Miami County, Inc. was also awarded $25,000 in funding from the VAWA grant. The shelter provides safe shelter to homeless and abused persons in times of crisis and offers services promoting stability, dignity and self-reliance. One of the services provided is access to domestic violence advocates who help with shelter access, creating a safety plan, guidance through the criminal justice system, as well as providing referrals to help victims connect with other community resources and set up counseling.

A representative of the Family Abuse Shelter was not available to comment on grant award as of press time.

The VAWA is administered by the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS). In total, 143 grants were awarded to 101 local agencies in 46 counties.

“This funding is critical to prevent or reduce crime and violence against women, while meeting the needs of survivors using a community-coordinated approach,” said DeWine.

Two competitive grant processes were administered by OCJS for the federal fiscal year 2021 VAWA grant program. One process solicited grant proposals from victim service providers, law enforcement, prosecutors and courts throughout Ohio. A second process was tailored specifically for community-based, culturally specific victim service applicants.

“These grants help develop effective responses to violence against women through activities that include direct services, crisis intervention, transitional housing, legal assistance to victims, court improvement and training for law enforcement and courts,” said OCJS Executive Director Karhlton Moore.

VAWA funds also enhance the capacity of local communities to develop and strengthen effective law enforcement and prosecution strategies to combat violent crimes against women, as well as develop and strengthen victim services in cases involving violent crimes against women.

New Choices, Inc. can be contacted by phone at 937-498-7261 or text at 937-507-5786 for immediate assistance to anyone who is or knows someone in a domestic violence situation.

The Family Abuse Shelter of Miami County, Inc. can be contacted Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 937-339-6761, and after hours and weekends at 800-351-7347.

By Blythe Alspaugh

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