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Contra Costa County receives federal grant

on September 13, 2013

The U.S Department of Justice has awarded $700,000 in federal grants to two organizations in Contra Costa County, paying for programs to enhance the services given to trafficking victims and battered women.

“It is really huge for us and we are really rejoicing,” said Rebekah Truemper who works for STAND! For Families Free of Violence. “The grant will keep the transitional housing program going and it also allows us to use other funds to support crisis intervention, prevention and other services we have.” STAND! For Families Free of Violence received $300,000.

Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez) made the announcement Wednesday. $400,000 will go to the county’s Employment and Human Services Department (EHSD), which will use the funds to provide services to victims of human trafficking, provide training for professionals and community members, as well as enhance interagency coordination.

The funding was from U.S. Department of Justice Office of Victims of Crime and the Office of Violence Against Women.

The EHSD oversees and partners with a number of community organizations to work on issues concerning domestic violence, sexual assault, elder abuse and human trafficking. STAND!, which focuses on domestic violence issue, is headquartered in Concord but has smaller offices around the county, including one in Richmond.

Human trafficking and domestic violence have long been a nationwide problem and Richmond is no exception. According to STAND!, for the past 12 months, the center has received 1,200 victims of domestic violence from Richmond, a number that is proportionately higher than other cities.

Using the funds, STAND! will provide aid to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking who are homeless or in need of transitional housing, including short-term housing assistance and supportive services, and for whom emergency shelter services or other crisis intervention services are unavailable or insufficient.

“The grant will really give us a chance to add services that are needed because right now there are not a lot of services that are available for victims who are trafficked,” said Deborah Levine, director of the Contra Costa County Zero Tolerance For Domestic Violence Initiative. “This funding will have a tangible impact on enhancing services and improving our response to human trafficking.”

Contra Costa County identified 87 human trafficking victims with a “high percentage” from West County between 2009 and 2011, Levine said, adding that the identification rate of sexually exploited minors at a youth homeless shelter in Contra Costa increased by 200 percent in 18 months.

Truemper said the grant came at critical moment because funding to the organization has decreased over the past few years while domestic violence experienced a steady increase since the economic downturn.

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