By Joanne Zuhl
On its first meeting in what is Domestic Violence Awareness month, Portland stepped up its game by funding a new program to have domestic violence advocates work alongside the police on evenings and weekends.
Domestic violence accounts for about 5,000 calls to the Portland Police Bureau each year, the majority coming on evening and weekend hours when other services are closed. Under the one-year pilot project, two full-time crisis response advocates will partner with officers responding to those calls to provide safety planning and resources to victims.
This morning the City Council voted unanimously to dedicate $41,720 to the joint project with Multnomah County, which is contributing more than $83,000 in federal grant funding.
“We know in the District Attorney’s Office that the best practice is going to be hands-on at the front of the case,” said Rod Underhill, Multnomah County chief deputy district attorney, who testified at the council meeting. “We gather more evidence, we gather more trust and we gather more support. The involvement at that front end is a critical stage.”
The ordinance comes on the receipt of the first-year figures from The Gateway Center for Domestic Violence Services, which opened in September 2010, the first of its kind in the county. The center, located at 103rd Avenue and East Burnside, received more than 2,000 participants seeking assistance in more than 4,500 visits.
With 19 partners from health, legal and housing services, the one-stop center provides a comprehensive spectrum of options for someone seeking help escaping domestic violence. In its first year, center staff facilitated the filing of 557 restraining order applications, in 15 languages. And it is the only location in Multnomah County where petitioners can teleconference with a judge to have their restraining order approved by the court.
The center also provides childcare for parents while they receive consultation and assistance.
“This city-county collaboration that got the idea off the ground is a reflection of our shared commitment to address the epidemic of domestic violence in our community,” said Jeff Cogen, addressing the council. “While crime in general has been declining, domestic violence is an exception to that, and the incidences have been increasing.”