“Just imagine you are a victim of domestic violence, of sexual assault, of elder abuse, and you walk in here,” says Susun Kim, executive director of the Contra Costa Family Justice Alliance. “What do you notice? What do you see?”
The West County Family Family Justice Center — a one-stop facility providing multiple services for abused victims at 256 24th St. in Richmond — feels open from its lobby to its hallways. The center, which celebrated its grand opening just over one year ago, is filled with oxygen and natural light. Compelling images of young people don lobby and hallway walls. Other artwork is bright, colorful, mounted as if in a gallery. A smiling receptionist greets us; there’s no barrier between us. She’s bilingual. There’s a form to fill out, but it’s one page, and one-sided.
And we can’t help but notice that the stick figure on door to the women’s restroom is wearing a Superwoman cape.
The Family Justice Center appears to have left no stone unturned in the effort to provide swift and welcoming assistance and resources to abused women and seniors. The Richmond Standard recently toured the center and experienced how a victim of abuse would receive help upon entry.
“When you go the police station, district attorney’s office, bank, welfare office, the first thing you really experience is the barrier,” Kim says. “We purposely got rid of any barrier so when you come in, you feel welcome here.”
After filling out a single-page questionnaire in the lobby, victims are brought into a comfortable interview room featuring artwork from the NIAD Art Center. There, they speak with a navigator who assesses their situation and informs them on the available resources.
Rather than having to call around to various government and nonprofit agencies around the county, victims can simply stay in their interview room while those very resources come to them. Officials from an array or agencies and organizations operate in the building, including Richmond police detectives specializing in abuse cases, along with a representative from the district attorney’s office.
For victims with children, childcare is provided in a spacious play room. Volunteer physicians and nurses provide care for victims in small but well-equipped exam rooms. And while there is no bed or shelter provided in the center, a shower room is available to clients.
Kim walked us past a row of cubicles where various government and nonprofit agencies operate, providing crucial resources such as connections to affordable housing and services for elder abuse victims.
“I would say affordable housing is really the number one need of our clients,” Kim said. “A lot of our clients are stuck in their relationship because they can’t really think of how they could get affordable housing, as the Bay Area is becoming even more expensive.”
The second and third greatest needs of clients are civil/legal and mental health assistance, Kim said.
Kim says she hopes the center’s modern, innovative and seamless approach to helping abuse victims will encourage more victims to come forward and utilize the resources.
The Family Justice Center will hold a major fundraiser in September in order to continue and expand its mission. See the flyer below for more information.
For more information, visit the Contra Costa Family Justice Center website, call 510-965-4949 or visit the center at 256 24th St.