Story By: Elle Kehres

As the state-designated domestic violence service agency for Orange County, the Compass Center for Women and Families has provided emergency services for survivors of domestic violence for years.

In wake of the pandemic and stay-at-home orders, the center has seen a dramatic increase in need for emergency housing services.

97.9 The Hill’s Aaron Keck recently spoke with the Director of the Compass Center to hear how they are working to meet that need.

The Compass Center for Women and Families recently announced the public launch of Safe Homes, New Lives — a campaign fundraiser that aims to provide domestic violence emergency housing in Orange County.

Cordelia Heaney is the Executive Director at the Compass Center.

She said the center served over 1,400 survivors of domestic violence in Orange County last year. But, while they have a variety of services like assistance with legal resources, career and financial education, and support groups, Heaney said there is still a big need for emergency housing.

“Nationally, one in four women and one in seven men will experience some form of intimate partner violence in their lifetime,” Heaney said. “We know that Orange County is no exception.”

For people who are in need of emergency housing right now, the Compass Center helps survivors navigate the process of connecting to domestic violence or homeless shelters in other counties.

“Or we’ll be able to put a client in emergency hotel placement, but only typically for a night or two,” Heaney said. “So being able to begin offering emergency housing in Orange County is going to be a real game changer for us.”

Orange County has lacked a domestic violence shelter for more than two decades, and the Compass Center has been actively working for the last few years to bridge this gap. Safe Homes, New Lives will provide scattered emergency housing to victims fleeing violence in Orange County.

“So our plan is actually that we’re not going to be building a shelter,” Heaney said. “We’re going to be renting multiple apartments in different locations throughout the county.”

Heaney said these apartments will be single-occupancy spaces for a client, or a client and their children, to safely navigate their next steps after leaving an abusive relationship.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Heaney said the center has seen a big increase in demand for emergency housing. In March alone, they saw a 116 percent increase in requests in comparison to March of last year.

“People are having to shelter in place with an abusive partner and are looking to find a new place to stay when don’t have school or work to access as safe places like they had before,” Heaney said.

To fulfill these needs, the Compass Center is working towards raising $675,000 dollars to maintain three apartments over three years with additional staffing. Since fundraising started back in October, the center has almost reached that goal. In light of this, they are now working to acquire six apartments – which Heaney said would require about $1.1 million dollars in funding.

Whether or not the center meets that second goal, Heaney said emergency housing will soon be offered this fall – with plans to open the first apartment in October.

For more information on the Compass Center and its services, or to donate, click here.

To hear the rest of Aaron Keck’s conversation with Compass Center Director Cordelia Heaney, click here.

Photo via the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

Click here for the original story.