The Sojourner Family Peace Center opened its new 72,000-square-foot facility this morning and will begin taking in victims of domestic abuse in the next few weeks.
The center, located at 619 W. Walnut St. in Milwaukee, will dramatically change the way victims of domestic violence in Milwaukee access support by housing several private and public offices for abuse victims once scattered across the city.
Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office and the Milwaukee Police Department’s sensitive crimes division each have offices in the new building. The building also features a crisis shelter with 56 beds, rec rooms, a café, laundry room and workout facility.
“I think it’s exactly what we need; we need it right now,” said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. “We know a lot of kids who are abused when they’re young are more prone to have issues later in their life. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be abusers later in life, but it’s a heavy weight to carry if you’re abused as a child.”
Barrett and several other local leaders, including Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and District Six Alderman Milele Coggs, toured the facility this morning.
“These are the sort of things that make me incredibly proud to live in Milwaukee,” Abele said.
The center was built to implement an emerging international “wrap-around” model for victim services that emphasizes collaboration among organizations and government agencies that address domestic and sexual violence. The center is considered one of the most comprehensive in the country and includes 10 different agencies dedicated to helping domestic violence and sexual abuse victims.
Carmen Pitre, executive director of the Sojourner Family Peace Center, said that when victims arrive, it’s “a moment in time when they’re feeling shame and they’re feeling guilt. For us to have this integrated approach … to wrap ourselves around them … it’s going to really make their lives better and cut down on recidivism.
“We’ve got to cut down on the cycle of violence.”
Construction on the facility began in the fall of 2014 and took about a year to complete. The building cost around $21 million and was funded through a combination of tax credits, a $10.6 million contribution from the State Building Commission and $12 million in donations.
“Having those wrap-around services and a place for women and children to come and be safe, it’s very significant,” Barrett said.