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Domestic violence outreach gets boost.

Byline: Bill Bishop The Register-Guard

No one knows how many people need it, but more help is on the way for survivors of domestic violence who live outside the urban areas of Lane County.

Womenspace and the local Legal Aid and Advocacy Center are sharing a two-year, $500,000 federal grant to step up their outreach to rural areas - providing legal services and practical support to people who are leaving abusive relationships.

The two nonprofit organizations have collaborated on a variety of projects for many years, but have long known that their efforts have fallen short in rural areas, said Pat Vallerand, who directs the Domestic Violence Clinic for the legal aid center.

Only about half of the qualified people who seek legal services can be helped because of limited funding for the nonprofit service, she said.

Of the 150 who sought help from the center's Stop Violence Against Women Project in a year's period, about 35 cases were handled under the current funding level.

Meanwhile, a survey by Womenspace a few years ago showed that somewhere between 7 percent and 14 percent of households experienced domestic violence in the preceding 12 months - far more than the number of clients who sought help from Womenspace, said Cheryl O'Neill, executive director.

"We haven't reached anywhere near that number of people," O'Neill said. "We know there are people out there who need help."

The grant, provided by the U.S. Department of Justice, will pay for two new legal advocates, including one Spanish speaker, to work in rural areas. The advocates help survivors prepare to represent themselves in court.

The grant also will cover half the cost of a Latina attorney and will replace an expiring grant that provides another full-time attorney to serve low-income clients in family law cases.

Womenspace - which already has offices in Junction City, Oakridge and Cottage Grove - will be adding caseworkers to aid survivors of domestic violence in rural areas and direct them to local resources.

The rural services are available by calling the Womenspace hot line at 485-6513 or (800) 281-2800.
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Title Annotation:City/Region; A $500,000 grant will add more legal help and practical support in rural communities
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Oct 22, 2007
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