Non-profit domestic violence advocate organization, Safe Passage, asks the community to help find a new location of safe haven for abused victims in Izard and Fulton counties.
"We are in a really tight spot," said Christy Puckett, co-founder of Safe Passage. "We found out (Thursday) that the shelter currently in Izard County has been sold by the lease owner. At this point we have until the end of October to find a new shelter." Without a secure location to house those in need of protection, the doors to the shelter will be closed, and victims will be made to seek a shelter in a neighboring county.
"We are worried sick about it. I don't know what in the world we are going to do ... We just need a place we can go. It should not be that difficult but it is," Puckett said.
Although it is not apparent how the need will be filled, the need for such an organization in the two-county area is clear.
"Today, we have in our shelter three adults and four children, and it's been a slow week," Puckett said. Between three and four families are housed in the shelter at any given time.
"They really serve a very worthwhile purpose. If any of our organizations need funding then they do," said Tate Lawrence, Izard County sheriff.
The shelter is free and confidential.
"We try to give them the time they need to get back on their feet," Puckett said. "Most shelters have a stay policy, we do not. It's difficult when you are trying to start over from scratch to have a time limit. Most basic needs are food and clothing."
Puckett and Lorri Rorie co-founded Safe Passage in August 2004. Prior to its opening there was no local assistance in place. Since 2004, Safe Passage has steadily continued to help family members and children of domestic abuse.
"People are always shocked at the number of people that we end up helping," Puckett said. "The nature of domestic violence is such that often they flee from other locations. We have a shelter and then we also have an outreach office in Melbourne and soon to be open, an outreach in Fulton County."
Two years in the making, Safe Passage will be opening its doors to victims of domestic violence in Fulton County.
"We wanted to have something that was more centrally located to law enforcement and the courts so the services are right there for them," Puckett said.
Currently, the Outreach Office and shelter in Izard County facilitate for both counties. Safe Passage expects a state grant to pay for a Fulton County advocate to staff the new Outreach Office. However, until that grant arrives, all advocates are being paid out of general funds, Puckett said.
"We are just running out of money not to put too fine of a point on it," she said.
The grant pays for staff positions of the advocates for the shelter and would allow Safe Passage to pay a small rent on a shelter, if appropriate accommodation is found, she said.
Safe Passage offers support groups for domestic violence, legal advocacy with order of protection, and attorneys for representation if needed. Peer counseling and case management give victims an opportunity to talk about what is going on in their lives and how to find the services needed to get them back on track, Puckett said.
Domestic violence is not only physical violence. It includes patterns of forcible control that one person exercises over another. It causes physical harm, arouses fear, makes victims do things that they do not want to do, or stops them from doing things that they want to do. It can be physical, emotional, sexual or economic abuse or isolation, according to the Arkansas Coalition Against Domestic Violence.