Leaders scrambling to find new helmsman for domestic violence safe house

Leaders scrambling to find new helmsman for domestic violence safe house

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - It's a place that's served more than 2,000 abused women and children in the Ark-La-Tex in just the last five years, creating a safe haven for victims of domestic violence.

But that could soon change, as Providence House announced the program will accept its last client at the end of this month.

City, state and community leaders are now scrambling to find an agency that can step in and take the reins of the largest domestic violence safe house in the entire state. The ideal situation is to do something called "transition in place." That way, a new agency could step in and keep the same location, the same staff and even utilize the same state and federal funds for the safe house.

But finding the right agency could be tricky. That's because of all the requirements necessary for an agency to qualify for state and federal funding, not to mention qualify as a viable option with the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

The LCADV is a statewide network of battered women's programs, which works hand-in-hand with the Providence House Domestic Violence Program and Safe House. To make matters worse, the clock is ticking to make a full transition in less than three weeks time or risk having no place for battered women to go for help in Shreveport.

"He was beating me half to death all across the house; could not get away from him," recalled "DeeAnn", as we'll call her. But somehow she did manage to escape from her abuser back in 2010.

She eventually made it here inside the safe house in Shreveport.

DeeAnn reflected on what might have happened to her if the safe house had not been here at the time: "I would have died!"

But this week, Providence House announced it could no longer afford to manage the safe house. They plan to accept their last client April 30 with the last client leaving May 25. That's where Louisiana State Representative Patrick Williams of Shreveport has stepped forward. He's talking with city, state and community leaders to find a new non-profit that could step in and take over the shelter.

"Oh, it has to happen. There's not a matter of if. It's just a matter of when," Williams said. "So yes, it's definitely going to happen."

On Friday, Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover said domestic violence is a life or death situation. That's why he says it is completely unacceptable to even think about the city of Shreveport going without a domestic violence shelter for even a single night.

That being said, Glover also had some strong feelings about the current timetable set down by the Providence House. He said that 19 days, less than three weeks, to find a new operator for the shelter is simple not enough time. And he did not mince words, saying: "No."

Instead, Glover is asking Providence House to, in his words, at least honor their current contract with the state of Louisiana.

"At the very least, at this point, you have a contract that takes you to the end of this fiscal year. That fiscal year ends on June 30," he said.

Providence House Executive Director Simone Hennessee said she has passed on the mayor's request to her board of directors. But she said there is no timetable when the board is supposed to meet again.

Hennessee says she's confident a new agency will be found to run the safe house.

"We will find somebody here. We will find somebody," she said. "I don't think, there's no doubt in my mind that there is going to be somebody."

William said he received a letter from Suzy Sonnier, the Louisiana Secretary of the Department of Children and Family Services. That letter points to two non-profit agencies in the area that could be candidates to take over the shelter. They include: "DART" and "Project Celebration." And the letter stated that there could be more.

Williams said city, state and community leaders are expected to meet next week, to begin narrowing down the list of possible agencies.

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