In 1981, a group of citizens concerned about the lack of services to victims of family violence, because of the close of a women's shelter, held open forums and developed a task force to address the problem. Incorporated in May of 1982 as a not-for-profit membership organization, Renewal House initiated services in March of 1983 with minimal funding. Renewal House was and currently still is the only domestic violence agency in St. Lawrence County. Over one hundred women and their children received help in 1983 and 1984. Emergency shelter became a top priority and a Program Development Grant from NYS Department of Social Services was received in October 1984 for a safe home project. The network of voluntary safe homes was effective for short-term (1-3 days) crisis housing but a critical need for alternative, long-term housing became apparent. The Safe-Apartment (6 beds) opened in 1987 providing shelter to victims for up to 30 days (extension to 90 if necessary). The second Safe-Apartment was opened in 1989. Licensing occurred in 1989 as New York State initiated new regulations for residential programs and a certification process for domestic violence programs. Renewal House is certified as a safe home network provider and a safe-dwelling provider. In 1998 Renewal House received a grant from the New York State Homeless Housing Assistance Program. Renewal House has been able to purchase a home in the county for residential services. Since 1982, Renewal House has been, and continues to be, committed to providing support and shelter to victims of domestic violence and their families, in an environment free from coercion, fear, judgment, or duress. It is a client-centered service emphasizing self-help and the ability of individuals to take control of their own lives. Renewal House has grown from one part-time person to a staff of nine full-time and one part-time. The number of individuals served has increased dramatically as well as the comprehensiveness of the service.
Although the financial situation is far from secure, Renewal House is slowly, but surely, developing a comprehensive, relatively stable financial base. Donations from individuals and private organizations have increased to approximately $20,000 per year. As of January 1992, New York State has mandated that the local Department of Social Services pay a per diem for residential service. Renewal House currently receives funding from the NYS Crime Victims Board, United Way of Northern New York, SLC Youth Bureau, the Augsbury Institute, Division of Criminal Justice Services, Federal Family Violence Prevention and Education Services Act, SLC Department of Social Services, private donations and fundraising.
For five years, Renewal House provided a men's self-help group for batterers wanting to change their behavior. In 1998, the St. Lawrence Domestic Violence Task Force formed a committee to address the issue of forming a batterers group in St. Lawrence County. As a result, a program was formed to address this issue. The new program is now called "The Offender Accountability Group". Catholic Charities in Ogdensburg oversees this program. The program consists of group meetings by alleged abusers. Members of the group can volunteer or are mandated by the courts to attend these meetings. A male and female facilitator conducts the groups. Participants are required to attend all meetings and are responsible for their own transportation and they pay on a sliding fee scale.
In June 2005, Renewal House was able to purchase the office space at 3 Chapel Street with a low interest loan and grant through the USDA Rural Development Program. It was a great opportunity to provide a permanent site for community members across our county.
On January 13, 2006, St. Lawrence County's Integrated Domestic Violence (IDV) Court began with four (4) cases presented. IDV Courts operate as specialized parts of the Supreme Court and are a synthesis of core principles that have emerged based upon research, experience, best practices, and an analysis of the court system's current methods of addressing domestic violence. Dedicated to the idea of ï¿½one family-one judgeï¿½, IDV Courts are designed to allow a single judge to hear related cases involving domestic violence.
Citizens Against Violent Acts (CAVA) became incorporated in 1982, the same year as Renewal House, serving victims of sexual assault throughout St. Lawrence County. In late 2009, their executive director was charged with taking funds for personal use. Unable to recover from their internal financial issues, CAVA's Board of Directors decided to close. Their official date of closure was June 18, 2010.
On April 13, 2010, Renewal House signed an agreement with NYS Office of Victims Services (OVS), previously NYS Crime Victims Board, to provide sexual assault services to victims throughout St. Lawrence County. The staff and board of directors were apprehensive at first due to issues that had previously occurred at CAVA and any resulting liability that would be attached, but we knew that Renewal House was the best agency to take on these services. OVS was able to reassign the contract to us without any liability from the previous contract holder. After 20 hours of sexual assault training for staff and volunteers, we officially began serving sexual assault victims on May 1, 2010. There was only one other contract Renewal House signed that was previously CAVA's and that was the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Program. The two groups that CAVA ran and funded by the St. Lawrence County Department of Social Services were reassigned to Catholic Charities.