‘Peace House’ begins to gain traction

CAC program provides services to victims of domestic violence

By Jennifer Woods - jwoods@aimmediamidwest.com

The Fayette County Community Action Commission’s (CAC) “Peace House” program may be in its infancy stage but it has been gaining traction and funding.

The Peace House is a multi-service program for victims of domestic violence that was first placed into operation in early March. Essentially, Peace House is a one-stop shop providing emergency housing, homeless prevention, care coordination, safety planning, crisis intervention, etc. to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.

The Peace House project is overseen by the CAC Board of Directors, which is a tripartite board comprised of public, private and representatives for the low-income community impacted by the agency’s services. This board meets on a monthly basis and has checks and balances in place to guard against mismanagement of funding.

CAC initially submitted grant applications in 2017 for the program but was unsuccessful in obtaining funds. It is believed the most likely reason for not receiving funding at the time was due to a lack of an actual housing location specifically for domestic violence victims.

In early 2019, the project partnered with Washington Court House Municipal Court and the Second Chance Program. After two years, the project received word in late 2019 that the Office of Criminal Justice Services had awarded the agency a $48,000 grant to operate the Peace House domestic violence program.

Recently, the agency received word that the program will be funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development for additional funding to place survivors and their families into their own homes. Although the contract has not yet been received, the agency anticipates launching that part of the program by next spring.

The person chosen to be the director of Peace House is Halona McCracken.

McCracken has been working with victims for 10 years on a volunteer basis. She has previous training in diversity, inclusion and equity from one of the nation’s top 10 Pediatric Hospitals with five years of consecutive leadership in Safety Council, employee engagement, #OnOurSleeves advocate, unit council president and the years of continued training and service in one of the most globally diverse populations in Ohio.

This experience gives McCracken the ability to manage, train and direct the core of the program to care equally for all those that are served. Chosen as a leader among her peers, McCracken has spent half a decade working closely at the continued development of inclusion and cultural awareness, and was recognized as Employee of the Year for her work with patients, family, visitors and staff as a first point of contact for all at her previous employment.

She also served on the CAC board as the domestic violence representative, being a survivor herself. She was voted into the position by women residing at the Brick House Homeless Shelter to represent survivors of intimate partner violence.

CAC’s Brick House Homeless Shelter was founded in the late 80s and was often at full occupancy. Even when full, victims were connected to other alternative shelter sites, and were provided with transportation.

Approximately 70 victims a year were placed into their own housing through the agency’s Rapid Re-Housing program.

Upon being chosen to direct the Peace House, McCracken was replaced as the domestic violence representative on the board of directors by Laura Jones.

It was recognized that the community needed another housing option, as the Brick House Homeless Shelter was often full. There was a continuous need for alternative housing, and a community needs assessment had results indicating it.

The community needs assessment (done in 2017) had community members, CAC clients and partners rank the most pressing needs of the community. The third highest need was a domestic violence shelter.

It was believed that part of the reason a domestic violence shelter was needed was because of the closing of “My Sister’s House,” which had been the only domestic violence shelter in the county — and was not part of the CAC.

After identifying the need for a reputable domestic abuse program, CAC Planner Christina Blair spoke to the ITEAM (an interdisciplinary board run by Victim/Witness) in 2018 about what type of services and supports were most needed during the development phase of the Peace House program.

From that development to now, the Peace House program is expected to be a success, according to officials.

McCracken said, “It is important to us that the community knows that a donation to Peace House will benefit survivors and their children directly. Every dollar raised through donations or received through grant funding is tracked by our Fiscal Officer, her two assistants and the board’s financial committee. Board members at large have the authority to request backup and more information on every single dollar spent by agency staff. Rest assured, we run our project with the utmost integrity.”

To volunteer or donate to Peace House, contact Halona McCracken at hmccracken@cacfayettecounty.org. Victims may contact the crisis line at 740-505-0090. For more information on domestic violence services in the community, download the Sheriff’s App.

For a full list of Peace House services, please visit www.cacfayettecounty.org/peacehousedv/ and follow the new program’s Facebook page, “Fayette County Domestic Violence Project.”

The information in this article was originally submitted by Christina Blair, planner for CAC.

Reach Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355 or on Twitter @JennMWoods.

CAC program provides services to victims of domestic violence

By Jennifer Woods