Although plans for the PorchLight Family Justice Center have been in the works for nearly two years, the question of funding remains in flux.
However, during a Feb. 26 staff briefing with the Jeffco commissioners, PorchLight staff members received the initial go-ahead to begin a final push for fundraising for the center. According to preliminary conversations in the staff briefing, the county committed to match funds up to $250,000 if PorchLight receives at least $100,000 in funding from a number of potential sources.
Right now, the center has received more than $800,000 of its $1.2 million goal, but it’s looking to raise an additional $500,000 by the end of April in order to secure a physical location.
When it opens, PorchLight will be a one-stop shop for victims of violence, including domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse, human trafficking and more.
According to prior reporting from the Courier, Casey Gwinn and Gael Strack of Alliance for Hope International, an organization that helps establish family justice centers around the world, said the first center was established in San Diego in 2002. Since then, more than 90 FJCs have been established in multiple countries, with another 100 centers in development that help women, men and children of all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.
“I don’t know of any project that better exemplifies what we want to stand for in Jefferson County more than what the PorchLight represents,” said Jeffco District Attorney Pete Weir.
After working to raise a portion of the additional money, the PorchLight team plans to meet with the county commissioners in April with updated funding information.
Commissioners, county officials and those working in victim services and other similar areas say the FJC will help break the cycle of violence and remove some of the barriers to treatment.
“The data shows that 75 percent of the people that commit domestic violence witnessed domestic violence in the family or in their childhood,” Weir said. “We’ve got to stop that.”
“What we see is victim participation in the criminal justice system increases significantly when these centers open,” added Candace Cooledge, a deputy district attorney in Jeffco and executive director of PorchLight. “And what that means is we’re able … to hold offenders accountable to find the treatment that they need and to get the survivor, their children to a better place so that then the cycle isn’t repeating itself.”
Although there was some hesitation regarding the county’s commitment to provide funding, the commissioners ultimately agreed it’s a worthwhile cause.
“It’s really about serving the victim and what’s in the victim’s best interest,” said Commissioner Lesley Dahlkemper. “ … Also, the fact that this is multi-generational is a powerful piece of this. From kids to victims of domestic violence to elder abuse, which we know, of course, is a huge issue in our community with our aging population.”
Commissioner Libby Szabo agreed, noting the importance of lifting up those who have experienced domestic violence or any other form of abuse.
“We know what goes on behind our closed doors, but we don’t know what goes on behind our neighbors’ closed doors. And I think we would be shocked,” she said.