$3 million state grant means more housing for battered women, kids

Published: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 at 6:15 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 at 6:15 p.m.

In the next few years, housing for local battered women and children will vastly expand thanks in part to a $3 million state grant recently awarded to the Peaceful Paths Domestic Abuse Network.

The grant through the state Department of Children and Families will be used to expand the agency's campus on Northwest 53rd Avenue, Executive Director Theresa Beachy said Tuesday.

“We are really hoping we will have shovel in ground by the end of this year. We will definitely have everything done by June of 2015,” Beachy said. “It will be an additional 52 beds. Right now we have 37 beds so this will more than double our capacity.”

The grant was awarded Monday through a competitive process by DCF in partnership with the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

The money comes from a federal-state settlement with five mortgage companies over claims of foreclosure abuse. It was one of 11 grants involving a $10 million portion of the settlement.

Peaceful Paths operates an emergency shelter and a transitional housing facility in Alachua County, and runs programs to help battered women and children in Alachua, Bradford and Union counties.

The organization announced the expansion in 2011 after Dr. Paul Schilling and Jay Dutton donated $1 million, which was used to help buy 16 acres at the Peaceful Path office. Dutton is on Peaceful Paths' board of directors, while Schilling is on the board of trustees.

The expansion will provide 20 apartments for supportive housing for stays of 18 months up to three years. Several permanent housing units also are envisioned, primarily for disabled or elderly women.

“The campus model will allow us to serve people for a longer period of time. An emergency shelter isn't a sufficient amount of time for someone to transition to where they can be self sufficient,” Beachy said.

“We're giving them a longer period of time in which they can find a job, find housing, secure child care, reestablish their support system and become safer and more stable.”

Beachy said that more money will be needed for furnishing and other needs, adding that various fund-raising efforts will be undertaken.

Gainesville City Commissioner Lauren Poe, Peaceful Paths board president, said in a press release that the entire community will gain from the expansion.

"The benefit of this grant to our community will be measured not in the amount of dollars gained, but in the thousands of lives saved and improved because of this center," Poe said.

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