Story by: Katie Filling

A Family Justice Center is coming to Savannah to help victims of domestic and sexual violence by providing all the resources they need under one roof.

The City of Savannah struck a deal with the District Attorney’s Office and several other groups for the one-stop-shop center.

The city is letting them use a space they own in a shopping center off of Water’s Avenue.

Right now victims have to go all over the city to get the resources they need. That can cause financial issues, transportation troubles and it just takes a lot of time.

It will be the first family justice center in Georgia.

Cheryl Branch is the executive director of Safe Shelter, a center for domestic violence victims. She’s been working with several other people to make this center a reality.

“It brings all of us together to minimize the stress to victims, they’ve already been through too much,” said Branch. “Being able to offer premier, professional, compassionate victim services, I mean really doesn’t get any bigger than that.”

The center will have people from Safe Shelter, the Rape Crisis Center, Children’s Advocacy Center, the District Attorney’s office and the Savannah Police Department — all under one roof.

Major Robert Gavin with Savannah Police is the president of Safe Shelter’s Board of Directors. He said the police will be more than just the first responders with this center.

“Our job here with the justice center will be to not only help get through those initial moments of the incidents but then help with the follow-up. Not having to move around to see detectives to get in touch with prosecutors we’ll all be in the same place,” said Gavin.

“To have people in the DA’s office and in the police department that are specifically trained in sexual assault and domestic violence is a huge thing,” said Branch.

This will make things easier for the victim and help the prosecution of their case.

“People are always like, well why didn’t she prosecute? Well I think sometimes because it’s so difficult they feel like they’re having to run around the world and as soon as they think they’re through and someone else tells them they need to go do this, but they’re the victim,” said Branch.

“So all of those things will help strengthen the case, it’ll put the victim in a place of power, the opposite of what the offender did to them,” said Gavin.

The organizers are working to get funding through grants.

And they’re visiting other city’s family justice center’s to get ideas on how best to run it. Their next trip will be to Nashville, Tennessee.

Their goal is to have the center open by this fall.

Branch said Savannah needs this now more than ever. The provided service to more than a thousand victims in 2018.

“Recognizing the fact that last year Safe Shelter alone saw 1,088 people, that’s a reality. I’m glad that we were able to provide services for that many people and I’d wager you that we’ll see more this year,” said Branch.

The Savannah Police Department responded to 3,339 domestic disturbance calls in 2018, according to Safe Shelter’s numbers.

Those victims will be able to go to one place to get all the help they need when this center opens.

Read the original story here.