Published: Jan 09, 2010 02:00 AM
Modified: Jan 07, 2010 06:22 PM
There's little furniture, but just enough to rebuild a life.
Inside the two-story home with the wide front porch, up to 20 people living in four apartments - battered women and their children - will be part of something unique to Durham and the region.
The Durham Crisis Response Center opened a transition home this week. Organizers say it is the only one for domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking victims in the Triangle, and one of only a few in the state.
A $590,000 two-year federal grant will help the center rent the house and provide employment, financial and counseling services needed for the women to support themselves eventually. Residents will pay rent, which will be placed in a savings account and given to them when they leave.
Each room has a twin bed, cabinets, a nightstand and lamps. Kitchens have stainless-steel appliances, some with dishwashers. Each apartment has two bathrooms.
Residents, who will come from the center's shelter or from those receiving center services, can leave any time during the two years. The home, located in an undisclosed part of the city to protect those living there, will help provide more room in the center's emergency shelter. About 297 women and children stayed there in 2008-09. Eighty-eight were turned away.
"There would be women coming into the shelter who didn't have a place to go next, so they had to stay at the shelter for a long time," said Sara Giles, the center's transitional housing case manager. "And that was less bed space at the shelter for other women out in the community who needed the emergency protection. This is the bridge between the shelter and 100 percent independence."
Domestic violence crimes reported between January and June have remained steady over the past three years, with 121 incidents in 2007 and 2009, and 111 in 2008, according to Durham police. The majority were aggravated assaults, a term that includes stabbings and shootings.
Domestic incidents made up 14 percent of all violent crimes during the timeframe.
Durham County had six domestic violence-related homicides in 2009, five in 2008 and four in 2007.
Transition houses are rare for domestic violence agencies because they're expensive to maintain. But they're needed to keep victims from returning to their abusers, and to provide enough time to "help women over their lifespan to make credible long-lasting change," said Aurelia Sands-Bell, the center's executive director.
City Councilman Farad Ali, who stopped by during the home's open house Tuesday, thinks the house will provide the space and support needed for many second starts.
"It's serene, it's peaceful," he said. "I think it's important that people have a sense of dignity while they're rebuilding their lives. When you have a sense of dignity and you feel you were uplifted, it can be the catapult for life-changing events."