After several months of uncertainty following the closure of a regional domestic violence shelter last fall, the local government has found a new partner to provide aid to the victims of perhaps more than 300 domestic disturbance cases in the town each year.
Those in need of aid or shelter after experiencing abuse at the home in Northeast Kansas have gained a new partner in the last year in the form of The Alliance Against Family Violence. The Alliance, which recently re-formed after a closure in 2017, operates a single shelter supporting several rooms with five beds each at an undisclosed location in Leavenworth.
The City of Atchison governing body moved via a 5-0 vote on Monday to endorse The Alliance as the municipality’s official domestic violence shelter provider, replacing the defunct Domestic Violence Emergency Services (DoVES) facility.
The Atchison house formerly supporting DoVES aid recipients still contains at least three women who appear in court filings under redacted identities based on their need of emergent shelter from domestic violence, but their ability to legally reside at the former DoVES shelter is undetermined pending a hearing later this month.
With the new designation, The Alliance intends to seek more grant funding, and Atchison Police Department officers are authorized to refer victims of domestic abuse in need of counseling, supplies or emergency shelter.
“What this provides is, is an ability for them to talk to somebody who knows what they need to do,” said Mike Wilson, Atchison police chief. “And, get their ... get this thing going, because, at two o’clock in the morning, having to leave your home with children because you want to be safe, because maybe you’re a domestic violence victim, is a tough situation.”
The need for a permanent, official, accredited domestic violence shelter is obvious to local authorities, who are accustomed to calls at all hours of the day involving people in distress at the hands of a domestic partner. While The Alliance will continue to operate one shelter in Leavenworth, and those who need to return to Atchison for work or other purposes will have to travel about 20 minutes each way from the shelter to Atchison, local aid is on tap for those who need it.
“We are hoping to start rather soon having our law enforcement court advocate up here one day a week and doing office hours for folks who are essentially looking for assistance with protection orders or who have questions relating to that process,” said Jennifer Marsh, executive director for The Alliance.
The Alliance, which is accredited by the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, has been serving Atchison clients for months without local official endorsement, and Marsh estimates that about 20 percent of her organization’s current clients are from the Atchison area.
It’s not known if this will increase or decrease with the new relationship with the city of Atchison, or how many people are currently in need of aid and haven’t sought it out before now.
“What we do know is, is how many victims that we have subsequent contact with, where they’re victimized again,” Wilson said. “And I can tell that that is a substantial number.”
Victims of domestic abuse in Northeast Kansas are encouraged to call the 24/7 hotline of The Alliance Against Family Violence at 913-675-7217 or visit www.allianceks.org.