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Published September 19, 2013, 08:06 PM

Domestic violence costs Grand Forks more

An increasing need for services and rising costs has the city of Grand Forks boosting funding for a local group working to reduce domestic violence.

By: Brandi Jewett, Grand Forks Herald

An increasing need for services and rising costs has the city of Grand Forks boosting funding for a local group working to reduce domestic violence.

The city maintains a contract with the Community Violence Intervention Center for services such as counseling and facilitating safe visitation between children and adults.

This year the City Council voted to increase payment to the center by about $23,000, bringing the total for the 2014 contract to $123,000.

According to CVIC’s executive director, Kristi Hall-Jiran, those services save both the city and Grand Forks County money

The safe visitation program, called Kids First, reduces the number of potential police calls that results from situations taking a turn for the worse, she said.

Last year, staff from the city and CVIC determined that the city saved $260,000 because of CVIC services. Grand Forks County, which has more agencies working with domestic violence issues, saved about $527,000.

The county paid $120,000 for its contract with the center last year.

Rising numbers

The need for CVIC’s services is growing, and one need the center is struggling to meet is emergency housing.

“It’s likely a combination of things,” Hall-Jiran said. “We’ve definitely been impacted by the Oil Patch.”

She has heard stories of clients coming to Grand Forks from western North Dakota to flee domestic violence situations, she said.

CVIC’s awareness programs could also have led more people to seek help or report incidents than in past years.

Through its Light of Hope Program, the center provides an emergency shelter and transitional housing to clients.

The 20-bed shelter only takes in those fleeing from domestic violence and has a waiting list. The average stay there is one to three months, but some stays last only one night.

“We don’t turn away anyone coming from a violent situation,” Hall-Jiran said.

This year, the number of nights clients have spent in the shelter has increased by 30 percent, though the number of clients has gone down slightly, which she said indicates people are having to stay longer at the shelter.

In the first half of this year, clients, both adults and children, spent a combined 1,507 nights at the shelter, compared to 1,154 in the first half 2012.

Lack of housing

One reason clients are staying longer is because the city’s low apartment vacancy rate makes housing harder to find, according to Hall-Jiran.

Some CVIC clients must choose between safety and having a place to live, she said. “For those returning to a violent home, it’s a roof over their heads. It’s a roof over their children’s heads. It’s food in their mouths.”

The Greater Grand Forks Apartment Association reported a 3.9 percent vacancy rate in July; housing experts say a healthy rate for a city is 7 to 10 percent.

Some relief is coming. The center’s transitional housing program recently received a $300,000 federal grant to be distributed over three years. The program provides rent for up to 24-months for single-parent families made homeless by violence, according to the CVIC website.

Eight more units will be available because of the money, Hall-Jiran said.