A state-of-the-art sanctuary for the battered and abused lies behind mirrored glass doors at the new Family Justice Center of Sonoma County in Santa Rosa.
A receptionist buzzes in single mothers, the elderly and other vulnerable people to a safe haven where they can get protective orders, file police reports or talk to advocates about temporary housing and legal assistance.
It's a one-stop shop to help victims of family violence navigate the otherwise daunting legal system.
Since opening its doors in late August, the Mendocino Avenue center has been quietly gaining in popularity, serving more than 85 people in the first month, said Executive Director Laura Colgate.
“We had been sort of flying under the radar,” said Colgate, a former Agilent project manager who helped plan the center before she was hired to run it. “Now, I imagine it will start going crazy.”
The public is invited to the grand opening from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
The two-story, county-owned building near the Sheriff's Office was the result of about four years of planning led by former District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua.
A study determined victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and crimes such as stalking and elder financial fraud could be required to visit two dozen different agencies if they wanted to use public services available to them.
Since many victims can lack transportation, be financially strapped or be pursued by an abuser, advocates determined it would be best to put all the assistance for them under one roof.
The county bought and renovated a former office building with grants and donations of about $6 million and invited more than a dozen victim advocates from organizations like Catholic Charities, the Council on Aging, the YWCA and the Inter-tribal Council.
The center is staffed by police and district attorney employees, an immigration adviser, an advocate for the deaf and a civil attorney who provides advice about harassment and getting restraining orders.