Sojourner Family Peace Centerin Milwaukee will receive $1 million in state funding, as part of a larger $2.7 million investment in domestic violence programs and emergency and homelessness shelter services, Gov. Tony Evers announced Wednesday.
The $1 million investment in domestic violence programming will go to the Milwaukee County Domestic Violence High Risk Team, which operates from and is coordinated by the Sojourner Family Peace Center, located at 619 W. Walnut St. The funding will support efforts by the DVHRT to build staffing capacity for domestic violence cases that are at high risk for lethality, according to a news release.
The DVHRT includes representatives from Sojourner Family Peace Center, the Milwaukee Police Department, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office and the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.
Sojourner is the largest nonprofit provider of domestic violence prevention and intervention services in Wisconsin, serving over 11,800 clients annually. The organization opened its existing 72,000-square-foot facility in 2016. The center has aimed to 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 - under one roof.
"This money will save lives," Carmen Pitre, president and chief executive officer of Sojourner Family Peace Center, said in a statement. "The Domestic Violence High Risk Team was launched in 2017 without the funding needed to support the work. Since that time, the level of lethal violence has increased in our community. These funds will allow the team to dedicate the staff needed to manage additional cases of near-fatal violence which will lead to more lives saved."
This recent round of funding builds upon $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families received in July 2021 to support a Domestic Violence Housing First Pilot Program, which is an evidence-based practice that moves domestic violence survivors into safe, stable, permanent housing as quickly as possible. Once housed, survivors have access to supportive, holistic advocacy resources to rebuild their lives.
The DCF later allocated $4.4 million in Family Violence Prevention and Services Act ARPA funds to expand the DVHF pilot. Through the available funding, DCF was able to support nine providers, in addition to funding a training and technical assistance provider and evaluation partner. DCF is allocating an additional $1.2 million in ARPA funding towards the DVHF pilot to extend the life of the program through September 2025, from its original December 2024 sunset.
"Having access to comprehensive services in a safe environment is critical for survivors and their families to navigate their healing journey and rebuild their lives," said Emilie Amundson, secretary of the Department of Children and Families. "This funding is helping us build our network of trusted service providers and ensure survivors have the necessary supports needed to thrive. I am extremely grateful for the governor's continued investment in Wisconsin’s children, families, and communities.”
DCF is also directing $800,000 in investments toward their basic services contracts with domestic violence shelter providers. New basic services contracts will be awarded in January, and this additional funding will help current grantees through the shift to a consolidated approach to funding.
In addition to these investments in domestic violence programming, Gov. Evers' announcement includes $500,000 for homeless case management services through the State Shelter Subsidy Grant Program and $1.2 million in Safe Shelter and Homelessness Grants to help Wisconsinites experiencing homelessness and the shelters that serve them during cold weather months. This investment is in addition to the $6 million in Safe Shelter and Homelessness Grants the state invested last fall for shelters as well as youth homelessness and runaway shelters, bringing the total investment to $7.7 million.
"We know the past few years have been tough on folks and families across the state, both financially and emotionally, and that many are at risk for homelessness or facing unstable or unsafe housing situations," said Gov. Evers in a statement. "These investments today will help ensure folks have safe, secure, and stable housing, especially as we head into the colder months of the year, and the support they need to overcome some really unthinkable challenges in their lives. As a state, we have a responsibility and a moral obligation to step up and help those who need a hand—that’s what being a Wisconsinite is all about, and it’s the right thing to do."