The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

Public Safety

Domestic violence agency announces expansion plans

Haven House, the only agency in Sandoval County dedicated to serving victims of domestic violence, has announced that it has begun its effort to double the size of its facility in order to accommodate the county’s rapid growth and the agency’s growing demand for services. Haven House board member Casey Bresnahan of First Community Bank in Rio Rancho is heading the effort as chair of the “Phase II Committee.”

Haven House’s Executive Director, Dianne Torrance, spoke on September 6 to the Sandoval County Commission about the project. She cited several statistics on domestic violence, summarized Haven House’s services, and described the plan to double the size of the current facility, which is located in Rio Rancho. Several Haven House staff and board members were in attendance.

Torrance noted that domestic violence includes not only physical violence but also threat of physical harm and various types of verbal and emotional abuse, which often accompany or progress to physical violence.

She explained to the Commission that domestic violence is common and costly. She said that the most conservative estimate, by the U.S. Department of Justice, is that one out of four women at some point in their lives will be victims of domestic violence. Other studies put the number at one in three or more. Though men may be victims also, most studies say that more than ninety percent of victims are women. Torrance added that domestic violence affects not only direct adult victims but also any children who are witnesses to violence in their homes. Child witnesses often exhibit serious “acting out” behaviors, withdrawal, depression, anxiety, and failure to grow and develop cognitively and even physically as appropriate for their ages. As adults, they are very likely to become abusers or victims themselves.

Torrance said that the Rio Rancho Department of Public Safety has stated publicly that approximately half of the criminal calls to which officers respond are domestic violence, at a cost of approximately $500 per call for even a misdemeanor-level offense, and more for felony-level violence. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says that for every one thousand female employees, more than one hundred each year will be involved in a domestic violence incident. Emergency room visits due to domestic violence cost from $200 to $2,000 or more, according to numbers provided by medical facilities in Rio Rancho and Albuquerque.

Haven House began in 1994 as Project Sandoval County, to help domestic violence victims with legal advocacy, including information about how the court system works and help in obtaining orders of protection (restraining orders) and participating in court hearings and other aspects of the legal system. The agency’s physical facility opened in January 2002. Haven House still provides legal advocacy but now also offers shelter for women who are victims of domestic violence and their children, a twenty-four-hour hotline, crisis intervention, case management including referrals, support/education groups in the community as well as in the shelter, an array of services for child witness/victims, and community education and outreach.

Haven House also provides a fifty-two-week educational batterers’ intervention program for men who are referred by the courts or who self-refer. Torrance says the program works with batterers on behalf of victims and that it is different from counseling or therapy “anger management.”

Any woman or man who would like more information on domestic violence in general or Haven House services specifically, or would like to discuss options for domestic violence victims, is welcome to call Haven House at any time. The toll-free hotline number is 1-800-526-7157.

Torrance’s presentation to the Commission noted that during its fiscal year that ended June 30, Haven House served an average of 104 clients per month, not including men in its batterers’ program. The numbers are continuously growing; the agency served an average of eighty-eight per month in 2006 and seventy-nine per month in 2005.

Even when it first opened, Torrance notes that the current shelter facility was termed “Phase I” of a building that founding community members knew would need to be expanded in a few years. The current forty-two-hundred-square-foot facility sits on land leased from Sandoval County. It has five bedrooms with a total of nineteen beds. Torrance says the facility usually is full or nearly full and at peak times, it must turn away families every day. Also, the facility has virtually no space for individual, confidential work with clients. “This is a major problem since one of the pillars of our work is client confidentiality,” Torrance says. “A woman who has just made the difficult decision to leave an abusive situation and come to our shelter right now has no really private space to discuss very personal and painful information with our staff.”

Haven House has drawn up a schematic plan for the expansion, which will include five more bedrooms to shelter twice the number of residents, an all-purpose meeting room for women’s and children’s support and education groups, small offices for confidential work with clients, a homework room for children, and renovations to the kitchen and dining areas to enable them to serve twice the number of residents. Though detailed building plans are not yet completed, the initial estimate to complete Phase II is $1.2 million.

For the project, Haven House obtained $240,000 from the 2007 State Legislature, to be contracted through Sandoval County as the fiscal agent, and is well into the process of securing the rest of the funds needed from other sources, including the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) agency, the 2008 Legislature, and Sandoval County. The project was just recently included in the county’s Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan.

Anyone interested in helping in some way with Haven House’s Phase II facility expansion; making a contribution; doing volunteer work for the program; or having a Haven House speaker for their work, club, civic, or church group may call the Haven House office at 896-4869 and ask for Dianne.

Signpost Cartoon, c. Rudi Klimpert

Plan for Halloween safety

—SUBMITTED BY FRED RADOSEVICH, CHIEF, BERNALILLO POLICE DEPARTMENT

The Bernalillo Police Department would like to offer the following safety tips for parents and children for Halloween.

• Wear light-colored clothing or costumes.

• Use makeup instead of a mask for better visibility.

• Make a map of the route for you and your parents.

• Carry a flashlight or light stick.

• Stay in your own neighborhood.

• Be respectful of other people and their property.

• Stop only at well-lighted houses.

• Have a parent check treats before you eat them.

• Start early and end early.

• Use sidewalks or walk facing traffic.

• Always keep a safe distance between you and moving vehicles.

• Stop, look, and listen at corners or before crossing the street, and walk—don’t run.

• Don’t go between parked cars or crisscross back and forth across the street.

• Never go inside a stranger’s house or apartment, no matter what anyone says.

• Don’t carry sharp instruments, and never carry a lighted candle or open flame.

Please report any suspicious activity to the Bernalillo Police Department at (505) 891-7226.

Be aware of hazard trees in forested areas

—SIGNPOST STAFF
The Sandia Mountains are being challenged by yet another force of nature: insects. An active bug infestation at upper and lower elevations of the Sandia Mountains is killing stands of trees. Western balsam bark beetle, fir engraver beetle, and Douglas-fir tussock moth have extensively damaged thousands of acres. Competition for water and nutrients in the soil and lack of natural fire has negatively impacted the forest’s health, weakened tree defenses, and created an environment where existing damaging insects are able to multiply successfully. The insects are at an epidemic level, similar to the piñon bark beetle epidemic in the recent past.

“Lack of natural fire has allowed trees to thrive on the mountain. Once a drought comes in, the trees become stressed and, just like disease moving through crowded city conditions, they are vulnerable to disease and insect damage, and in their weakened state, the trees will die,” said Sandia District Ranger Cid Morgan.

Widespread tree mortality has raised concerns for the safety of visitors in the forest, particularly from the danger of falling trees. The Sandia Ranger District has actively been removing hazard trees as soon as they are identified, concentrating in picnic areas, trails, and along highways. Due to the fast-moving spread of this infestation within the wilderness and areas along trails, there are stands of dead standing trees near hiking trails in remote areas. The Sandia Wilderness is especially hard-hit. There is less evidence of infestation south of 1-40 in the Cedro, David, and Otero Canyon areas.

Visitors need to be extremely careful when in the forest. Be aware of dead standing trees (snags) around you at all times. Exit heavily forested areas that have dead standing trees, especially during high winds. The Sandia Ranger District is actively working on a solution to protect visitors and will update the public with information as the situation changes.

For more information, contact Sandia District Ranger Cid Morgan at (505) 281-3304.

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