Safe Choice

[Image: Violet Ribbon]

ANCHORAGE - Governor Sean Parnell of Alaska believes that domestic violence has reached "epidemic" proportions. Domestic violence, sexual assault and child sexual assault are problem every state, city and neighborhood in America. But after looking at the facts, it's hard to quibble with the Governor.

Between 2001 and 2011, for example, Alaska state troopers responded to 40,796 reports of domestic violence. To 4,483 reports of sexual assaults. And to 5,484 reports of sexual abuse of minors.

When still a State Representative, he recently told The Fairbanks News Miner, the Governor joined Anchorage police officers on night-time ride-alongs. He quickly realized that, no matter the neighborhood, "about 70 percent" of their calls "every night" involved such violence. "And it was seeing the women and children in the basement or the closet with the phone shaking," he added, "seeing the devastation of our families" that "triggered" his interest in doing something.

It's no wonder, then, that shortly after being appointed Governor in late 2009 he pledged that the state would "take every step necessary" to stop the epidemic. When it was launched, his Choose Respect campaign had just 12 communities. Today more than 120 communities - large, small and somewhere in between - are involved statewide.

The Choose Respect campaign also has enjoyed considerable support from the Governor's former colleagues in the Legislature. At his request, earlier this year, it appropriated more than $1.3 million in state funds for a new Empowering Choice Housing Program that will provided assisted housing to victims of domestic violence, freeing them, says the Governor, from abuse and, thus, from fear.

The new program will be administered by the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, the state's sole public housing authority, which is using the flexibility provided to it under its Moving to Work agreement with HUD to provide some $1 million in HUD-funded housing resources to achieve, promises Dan Fauske, its CEO/executive director, "remarkably quick implementation" of the new program.

In collaboration with the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault and the Council on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault, the Corporation initially will provide 214 - and, ultimately, up to 254 - HUD tenant-based Housing Choice Vouchers to non-profit victim services providers in 12 Alaska communities, from Anchorage to Wrangell, Fairbanks to Homer, Kodiak to Ketchikan to Kenai - to provide up to 36 months of transitional housing to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Under the Empowering Housing Choice Program, Alaska Housing Finance also will offer preferential placement on their public housing waiting lists to displaced victims in Bethel, Cordova and Nome.

"Even when victims of domestic violence finally realizes it's time to leave a bad situation that promises only to get worse, they often are stopped cold by the question of 'Where can I go that's safe?'" said HUD Northwest Regional Administrator Mary McBride. "I commend Governor Parnell, the Alaska State Legislature, the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation and Alaska's victim services providers for developing an innovative, effective answer that question. For our part, HUD is proud to play a role in this effort."


Content Archived: February 26, 2014