By Behind The Badge

Leslee Razo, operations specialist, talks about the work done at the Santa Ana Family Justice Center.

The rooms of the Santa Ana Family Justice Center provide a comforting environment to the most vulnerable individuals and families, usually at a time when they are feeling desperate and traumatized.

The center, which opened just over a year ago at the Santa Ana Police Department, offers services to survivors of domestic violence, elder abuse, human trafficking sexual assault, and child abuse.

Some rooms are adorned with decorative murals and the vibe is welcoming. Others are filled with children’s books and toys.

“I know it can be intimidating coming into a police station,” said Leslee Razo, operations specialist at the center. “We want them to see this station as a safe place.”

The human element and the services offered offer healing and hope.

“When we set this up, there was no place in the city of Santa Ana for people to come and get wrap-around services,” said Santa Ana Police Deputy Chief Ken Gominsky, who helps oversee the center. “We wanted establish a place where people could come as a one-stop shop.”

And that is exactly what the Family Justice Center is.

Instead of searching around for shelters, counseling, child care, and other resources, providers of all those services are housed at the center and services are offered for free.

Providers available through the Family Justice Center include Casa De La Familia, a nonprofit which provides trauma counseling for families and individuals; and the Women’s Transitional Living Center (WTLC), which offers shelter for women and children, along with help for mental illness and addiction.

The Family Justice Center also partners with Waymakers, which provides victim support, conflict resolution, mediation and other services.

Other resources include the Orange County Department of Child Support Services, County of Orange Social Services Agency, Eli Home for Abused Children, the Community Legal Aid Society, Mexican Consulate, and Crime Survivors.

“Instead of having someone call 20 different agencies after what’s probably been a traumatic experience that they went through, they just come in here,” said Rosa Nava of WTLC in Fullerton. “We are able to help provide that for them and take away that stressor of having them call everyone else where they can come here and talk to myself or Kathy. We take away that leg work for them.”

And because the Family Justice Center is situated inside the Santa Ana Police Department, help from law enforcement is easily accessible if needed.

“Santa Ana PD is obviously a huge part of our outreach,” Razo said. “The center and Santa Ana PD are two entities but are absolutely collaborative.”

Santa Ana Police Department also lists the Family Justice Center on its website and social networking sites.

Officers provide information through their contacts in the community, and the service providers in the center also do outreach through their own agencies.

The center is modeled after the Family Justice Center in Anaheim. However, the Santa Ana facility is believed to be the only Family Justice Center located within a police department in the country.

Shortly after the center opened in January 2020, the pandemic hit and the county was essentially shut down. But the center still managed to serve clients, Razo said.

Between in-person interactions and over-the-phone conversations with clients, the center serves about one client per day, Razo said.

In the roughly 14 months the center has been open, it has provided more than 800 services to 140 clients, Razo said.

The Santa Ana City Council appropriated funding for the center as part of the fiscal year 2019-20 budget.

Victims of domestic violence and other crimes occurring in the home now have a place to go where they have immediate access to most, if not all of the resources they may need.