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Addressing Domestic Violence

NOVACO raises awareness and funds to tackle domestic violence.

In attempt to bring attention to the issue of domestic violence in the area, along with raising money for its homeless clients, the NOVACO Transitional Housing program is hosting its third annual silent auction and appraisal fair March 5.

"Our program is the second step after a shelter," said Victoria Neeley, NOVACO program director. "We're the ones to help people who need more time — longer than the three months at the shelter."

Neeley said through the fund-raiser, which raised more than $6,000 last year, the program is able to assist its clients with such things as paying for medical services, transportation, childcare and education expenses.

"What we really want people to realize is that it does take time to get back up on your feet," said Neeley, explaining some of the women assisted need the six to 24-month time period to begin the process of overcoming the trauma of an abusive relationship, establish support services, set up childcare and relieve possible financial debts.

"They don't even get child support set up in three months," she said about the time restrictions of shelters. "After child support is set up, it's one thing after another."

The Continuum of Care Community Group — created by Fairfax County to identify the number of homeless in the area — reported 1,926 homeless people in 2004.

Based on surveys mailed to more than 20 private non-profit and faith-based organizations, in addition to county agencies that provide services to homeless persons, the survey encompassed everything from emergency shelters and mental health care programs to permanent supportive housing and outreach programs.

Of the homeless identified, 29 percent of 1,110 people, or 325 families, including children, were victims of domestic violence.

More than half were women.

"The victim in a domestic violence situation is a female in 85-percent of all cases reported," said Neeley quoting a Uniform Crime Reports excerpt. "Due to the nature of domestic violence situations, in most all cases, the family has to flee their home in order to remain safe."

Neeley said this is why, for the time being, NOVACO concentrates on services specifically for female survivors and their children.

CREATED IN 1990 by area churches that wanted to give homeless victims of domestic abuse a safe place to live while they got back on their feet, the official NOVACO Transitional Housing program for Victims of Domestic Abuse began to receive U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funding in 1999, allowing it to grow into a supportive housing program.

Now, HUD provides 40 percent of the funding to manage the program, while foundations like Freddie Mac and Fairfax County grants offer 20 percent.

The remainder of funding comes from churches and private donations.

"Our program helps to bridge that gap between leaving an abusive situation and being self-sufficient," said Neeley. "Including legal assistance, budget counseling and child support registration."

Mirroring the "Antiques Road Show" featured on television, the group's March 5 fund-raiser will offer a silent auction and appraisal fair featuring local and mid-Atlantic region appraisers and auctioneers with years of experience and numerous accolades in the profession.

Proceeds will benefit the group's domestic violence survivors.

"The [event] was created as a means for leveraging the community interest and support for NOVACO," said Neeley, adding the group is dedicated to sending the mother's back to school. "Education is the key to success in [the woman's] career."