CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — Empowering survivors of sexual and domestic violence and working to eliminate that violence, is the mission of Centre County’s 24/7 not-for-profit, Centre Safe. Support from a $600,000 grant will allow their legal services to continue and expand into rural areas of the county.
“It’s absolutely critical,” said Anne K. Ard, executive director of Centre Safe.
Ard said 85% of Centre Safe’s services are grant funded. Their recent award from the Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women will be used over three years.
“We were pleased to get this grant from the federal government because the grant that was currently paying for the bulk of those services was ending and would not be renewed,” said Ard.
Part of the grant will go toward supporting their civil legal services.
“It will pay for attorneys and a paralegal, and the infrastructure to be able to help attorney’s with things like custody, divorce, division of assets as they’re going through a divorce,” said Ard.
Centre Safe said they will also use the funding to help university students facing Title IX processes who may need representation.
Plus, it will cover travel to rural communities for those who cannot come to their offices.
“Part of what we realized is that for rural survivors, it’s very difficult to actually come to either State College or Bellefonte sometimes to meet with an attorney,” said Ard. “We built in travel funds, so that we can actually go to them.”
Through a partnership with the Centre County YMCA, Centre Safe can hold meetings in Y facilities if that is safer and more accessible for the individual in need.
“Transportation in Centre County is a huge barrier to service,” said Ard. “The United Way not long ago did a study of what are the critical needs in Centre County, and transportation is right up at the top of that list.”
Overall, Centre Safe currently serves about 1,500 community members and about 200 of them are in need of the legal assistance sustained by this grant.