FAIRIFELD, Conn. – The Center For Women and Families, which serves Fairfield and Easton, officially changed its name Tuesday to the Center for Family Justice and announced it had received a $1.2 million grant for building renovations.
The center, which has long served eastern Fairfield County as an advocacy group and by offering safe houses and support for victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence, will transform over the next 18 months into a one-stop location for victims.
“Basically it relates to the most important needs of our clients,” Board Chairman Andrea Goodman said. Services from police, prosecutors, civil and legal providers and advocates will all be housed in one building so victims can more easily navigate the system and find the help they need, she added.
The Bridgeport center is using the Family Justice Center, which started in 2002 in San Diego, as a model.
“There is a great need for this type of program,” said Deb Greenwood, executive director of the center. The planning began in 2009, when board member Judy Stevens suggested the transition to the “all-in-one” approach.
By bringing all the services together, including a computer lab and job training, clients will have greater opportunities. The model reduces homicides, increases community support services, cuts fear and anxiety for victims, increases prosecutions and cuts costs to the victims, center officials said.
“There is no price tag to it when you fully embrace what The Center is all about,” said state Rep. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield.
“This is a problem that doesn’t necessarily stop at municipal boundaries,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District.
The streamlined facility is good for law enforcement, Easton Police Chief James Candee, because one officer is able to act as a liaison. He said he is excited about the new model, especially after the department has changed how it deals with domestic violence calls. “I can’t wait to see how it works,” he said.
Fairfield Police Chief Gary MacNamara praised the center's transformation in working with community leaders to change the culture of domestic violence.
“There is a lot of hard work going on,” MacNamara said.