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Above is an architect Mike Wills’ rendering of the project. Rendering courtesy of HCWC

HCWC hopes to provide more housing for victims of abuse

Sunday, July 28, 2019

After seeing a prominent need among victims of abuse and violence, the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center is hoping to establish a transitional housing facility that will prevent families from returning to an abusive household.

The HCWC is a non-profit that provides services, including counseling, advocacy, 24-hour crisis response and shelter to Hays and Caldwell County residents who are victims of family violence, dating violence, sexual assault and child abuse.

“Our ultimate goal is to create an environment where violence and abuse are not tolerated in the communities we serve,” said Marla Johnson, Executive Director of the HCWC. “We’re really about social change. Most of the work we do is about helping individual victims and prevention work but really what we want to do is we want to stop future violence.”

As Central Texas continues to grow, so does the demand for services for victims of abuse. From 2006 to 2016, the number of clients served by the HCWC increased by 70%, and in 2019, the HCWC has already seen a 30% increase in demand for its services.

Johnson said the demand has also risen because there has been a change in awareness about issues of abuse. She said the Me Too Movement has provided the public with more information about abuse.

“People often feel like they’re the only ones that this has happened to,” Johnson said. “That’s really changing. People no longer feel like they’re the only ones who have been sexually assaulted, or a victim of family violence or even child abuse.”

While the center continues to see a demand for services such as counseling and legal advocacy, it also is anticipating construction on a new transitional housing facility. The facility will have four four-bedroom, 12 three-bedroom and two one-bedroom apartments, and will offer longer-term housing for victims of violence and abuse.

The HCWC currently has a temporary shelter for victims, the McCoy Family Shelter, which can hold up to 10 families at once for around 30 days. However, staff identified a need to have a long-term housing option for victims, who often return to a violent home because of the lack of affordable housing and childcare.

According to materials provided by the HCWC, “many victims are forced to make the choice between homelessness and abuse.”

Since 2016, 10% of clients who leave the McCoy shelter return to the violent household that they fled, and according to statistics provided by the HCWC, a woman is 70 times more likely to be murdered in the weeks after she leaves an abusive partner.

Instead of letting victims to choose between homelessness and abuse, a new transitional housing facility will allow families to find housing with affordable rent for 12-18 months. While a family lives in a transitional housing facility, their children will have the opportunity to achieve school-readiness through Head Start and Even Start programs.

Head Start, a federal program under the Office of Health and Human Services, supports “the comprehensive development of children from birth to age 5.”

Johnson said staff from Head Start will have programs at the transitional housing facility, which will provide quality early childhood education and childcare to families in the program.

“They’ll go from possibly doing the best that they can in a home where there is a violent family member that’s kind of a constant thing that’s happening for them to an environment where they have quality early childhood education and their supportive parent is getting the support they need to make the changes that they need,” she said.

Construction on the project is projected to cost $4.3 million, and the HCWC has currently raised $3.3 million. If projections are correct, the facility could begin construction starting in October.

Johnson said the money they have raised to this point will only go towards the construction of the facility. She said the campaign will still need to purchase furniture, a playground and other items to begin operations.

“We still need to raise more money,” Johnson said. “We’re not finished yet.”

San Marcos Record

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