A local nonprofit that helps victims of domestic violence is stepping up its presence in rural parts of the Mid-Columbia.
Domestic Violence Services of Benton & Franklin Counties is using a grant to pay for a rural outreach advocate.
The advocate, Anna, who's bilingual, has started holding regular outreach hours in Basin City, Connell, Benton City and east Pasco, and plans to add a location in Prosser as well. She provides everything from safety planning to help navigating the legal system. Advocates are generally identified only by their first names.
"She can come out to (clients) and meet with them in a safe location, so they don't have the burden of trying to get into the Tri-Cities," said Erinn Gailey, Domestic Violence Services program director. Gailey noted that barriers from lack of transportation to inflexible work schedules can leave rural victims isolated.
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"We're trying to bring the services out to where the people are, so it's easier to get the help and support they need," Gailey said.
Domestic Violence Services helped more than 920 people last year through its outreach advocacy services. It also served 273 people -- 145 adults and 128 children -- at its shelter and answered 9,468 calls to its crisis line. The organization has a staff of about 18 and also relies on a network of volunteers.
The rural outreach advocate is being paid for with money from a two-year United Way grant. The amount for the first year is $41,709; Gailey said the amount for the second year hasn't yet been finalized.
The agency hopes to find other funding for the position when the grant ends.
"We're really happy with the response that we've been getting out there in these communities" to the rural advocacy services, said Dan Aspiri, executive director.
In Connell, police Chief Mike Kessler said his officers inform domestic violence victims they encounter about crisis services.
"On a continuing basis, after that initial contact, having somebody up here (victims) can come to and continue that process is fantastic," he told the Herald.
The full rural outreach schedule is on the agency's website, www.dvsbf.org, under the "Get Help" tab.