In the fall of 2020, a group of leaders from nine different agencies in Macon discussed an opportunity for a four- year funding and implementation grant to build a family justice center from the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. Macon was one of three locations in Georgia chosen for this grant, along with Waycross Georgia and Cobb County, and it will be one of the first family justice centers in Georgia. A family justice center is a ‘one stop shop’ for victims. It serves victims and families who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, elder & dependent adult abuse, and human trafficking. Within a family justice center, partners come together and are often housed in one place. This eliminates the need for victims to travel to several different locations to get the services that they need, as well as obstacles they face such as transportation, time, paperwork, and having to tell their story over and over. Sarah Schanck is heading up this initiative with Crisis Line & Safe House, the lead agency on the grant but the building of a family justice center is a huge collaboration of all partners. The family justice center started with nine partner organizations, and there are now more than 20 community partners. “People are excited to serve the community more effectively and get people the help that they need,” Schanck says.
Partners contribute in a variety of ways. Lots are co-locating, whether it be locating one person or the whole agency. Others serve in different ways without co-locating, such as training and educating or being an off-site referral location. It is expected that 10-15 agencies will choose to co-locate in some fashion.
In January, the name and logo “One Safe Place Macon” was chosen and announced for the family justice center. The decision was made by collaborative partners and by feedback from survivors through focus groups, which are held quarterly. “We want to make sure we are centering the voices of survivors and their families. That name gave survivors a good feeling of safety and being able to get what they need,” Schanck said. There was also recently a community-wide strategic planning meeting with 75 participants from over 40 organizations to discuss topics such as what One Safe Place Macon will be, how it will look, who it will serve, how they will be served, and what services will be offered.
Since this strategic planning meeting, One Safe Place Macon has moved from the planning phase to the action phase. Over the summer, the partners will begin to look at buildings and properties. Architects and construction companies will be consulted to figure out what is needed in the space and what it will look like, with partners hoping the doors of One Safe Place Macon will open in 12-15 months. Individual partners are currently assessing what they need within the building (for example, number of offices). The needs of all the partners will then be combined so an effective building or property can be found and appropriately renovated or built.
One Safe Place Macon is an idea becoming reality with the help of community members, survivors, and partners. There are five work groups- Governance & Facilities, Operations & Service Delivery, Community Engagement, Education, & Outreach, Funding & Sustainability, and Data Research & Evaluation – that are led by partners and consist of community members who meet monthly. “The work groups are a great place for community members to get involved in planning or to have their voice be part of the conversation,” Schanck says. For more information about One Safe Place, or if you are a survivor or community member who is interested in having your voice heard on this project, call Crisis Line & Safe House at 478-745-9292.