Members of Sitka Tribe of Alaska Social Services Department. Photo by James Poulson/Sitka Sentinel

The Sitka Tribe of Alaska has landed over $2 million in federal grant money to aid victims of domestic violence. The money is being awarded in three separate grants and will create five new positions to support women and children in Sitka.  KCAW’s Katherine Rose reports:

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The first grant puts $600,000 towards facility improvements at Sitkans Against Family Violence, which provides shelter for domestic violence victims.

The money comes the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Grant administrator Rachel Henderson says Sitka Tribe works with SAFV frequently, and this grant provides direct support for the shelter and the people it serves.

“65 percent of the people that use the SAFV shelter are Alaska Native. So we thought it was important in that regard to help tribal citizens,” says Henderson. “Also, most of the people that go there have low-to-moderate income, so it’s just helpful to the people in general that SAFV has an expanded or renovated facility.”

The SAFV shelter was built in the 1960’s. SAFV bought the building in 1995 and made some changes, but no large renovations to the floor plan. With this money, SAFV will expand the facility’s square footage and renovate the existing living space to accommodate more people. Currently, SAFV has space for 24 women and children.

“It’s going to add an area for animals so people who are coming to the shelter can bring their animals with them,” says Henderson. “It’s going to have expand 8 bedrooms so they can have 4 family size bedrooms. It’s going to improve the bathrooms so that one of the bathrooms is more handicapped accessible.”

STA also received two grants from the US. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women. The first, for just over $899,000, will be used to fund three positions for the next three years – an advocate for victims’ services at SAFV, a transitional housing program manager at STA, and a domestic violence investigator at the Sitka Police Department. All three positions will share a common goal of aiding victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Melonie Boord, social services director for Sitka Tribe of Alaska, says there was a crucial need to work with Sitka Police and SAFV to address the needs of women in the community from multiple angles.

“There’s been a desperate need for transitional housing for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault,” Boord says. “There’s definitely a need for a more effective approach to investigating crimes of domestic violence. And also because of the diminished shelter funding, there’s also a need for enhanced victim’s services.”

The second D.O.J. grant, the Legal Assistance for Victims grant, allocates $599,000 over the next three years to fund two positions. Naomi Palosaari of STA says the money will first pay for a full-time attorney who will work out of STA.

“They will see clients, they will screen them for eligibility, they will represent them in court, they will draw up paperwork. They will be providing all legal services in recovery from domestic violence or assistance with domestic violence issues.”

Sitka Tribe is now advertising for a family law attorney to fill that position. All other grant funded positions took effect on October 1.