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Secretary of State Jason Kander toured Harmony House in Springfield Tuesday and touted the benefits of the Safe at Home program, which helps hide a victim’s address. KSMU’s Michele Skalicky was there and has this report.
Secretary of State Kander, Christian County Prosecutor Amy Fite, Greene County Prosecutor Dan Patterson and others got a glimpse today of what life is like for women and children living in Harmony House, a domestic violence shelter in Springfield. The building housing the shelter is old—and looks its age. It was built in the early 1930s and has served as a hospital and a nursing home, according to shelter director Angela Shelley.
Now it’s a safe haven for those escaping abusive relationships.
The rooms are small but cozy. There’s a shared kitchen where two meals a day are served, a tv room, a playroom and a learning room where kids can use computers and do homework.
Once families leave, though, the need for safety doesn’t go away.
That’s where the Safe at Home address confidentiality program can help. Jason Kander says the Safe at Home program does what its name implies.
"It keeps people safe at home. It's for folks who have been victims of abuse whether it be men, women or children who want to be safe from their abuser, safe from their assailants and really want to go on with their lives. It gives them the ability to have their address be confidential," he said.
More than 2000 different participants have enrolled in Safe at Home since it started in 2007. Here’s how it works: survivors of violence are provided with a substitute mailing address through the Secretary of State’s Office. The office then forwards participants’ first class mail, certified mail and court documents to help keep their location confidential.
Christian County Prosecuting Attorney Amy Fite says the program helps keep victims safe while her office works to hold offenders accountable. She says it’s all about breaking the cycle of violence.
"These offenses occur in homes where there are children, and so everytime something like domestic violence happens, we all know that that increases the likelihood that those children are going to grow up to either be abusers or to become abused. We know that it increases their likelihood of suffering child abuse. We also know that even for the animals, it increases the likelihood that the animals are gonna be abused," she said.
Fite says having places like Harmony House and Freedom’s Rest in Christian County is the first and critical step to breaking the cycle of violence. Having a program like Safe at Home when survivors are ready to create their new household, she says, is crucial to giving them back a sense of safety and security in their own home.
To learn more about Safe at Home, sos.mo.gov/safeathome.
For KSMU News, I’m Michele Skalicky.