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$800,000 grant helps those in domestic violence, homeless situations

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The Victims Assistance Center of Jefferson County is well known for the help it provides to women and children in the midst of a domestic violence situation. Now its lesser-known arm of support for the homeless is getting a boost.

Executive Director Elaina F. Marra said the agency was recently given an $800,000 state grant to help cover the cost of its new $1 million shelter and some of the shelter’s basic supplies, because the 20-bed supportive housing unit provides a safe place for people who are homeless. The center was one of seven groups that received funding through the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance’s Homeless Housing and Assistance Program.

“There are people in our community and Jefferson County — specifically women and children – that often need a place to stay for reasons other than domestic violence,” Ms. Marra said. “It’s been that way since 1998. Throughout the years we’ve been able to take homeless individuals in our shelters. We see more for domestic violence, but we do see a reasonable amount of homeless individuals. We always have to be prepared. That makes this an essential need.”

The agency, she said, has a goal of allowing people a maximum of 90 days. While she said every case is different, an average stay tends to be between 10 and 21 days.

Clients will be able to get a good night’s sleep on a new, comfortable bed, as the agency was the recipient in December of a donation of about 20 Tempur-Pedic mattress and box spring sets. Assistance also came from the Northern New York Community Foundation, which gave the agency $10,000 toward the cost of the shelter.

Paid staff operate the shelter, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Volunteers, who go through a mandated 40-hour training workshop, help bring people to the shelter.

According to a news release from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, the state has invested $161 million in the past two years in supportive housing as part of the Medicaid Redesign Team’s efforts to help rein in costly Medicaid expenditures while more effectively managing the chronic conditions of more than 4,000 high-need New Yorkers.

Ms. Marra said she hopes the new shelter will help clients “move toward a more violence-free life.”

People with questions about the shelter can call the agency from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, or anytime through its 24-hour hot line, 782-1855.

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