By Conrad Dudderar
A new, centrally located family justice center provides a “direction for hope” to domestic violence survivors across Canadian County.
Cardinal Point now occupies a renovated 5,000 square foot space at the Gary E. Miller Children’s Justice Center, 7905 E Hwy 66 in El Reno.
Canadian County has Oklahoma’s fourth family justice center supporting victims impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and child abuse.
“We enhance safety, healing and hope by working with people impacted by those crimes, through public and private partner collaboration,” Cardinal Point Director Kristie Chandler recently told a Yukon audience.
“A family justice center is a collective impact model, where we all come together in one location.”
Cardinal Point staff and their resource partners are available full-time to serve survivors.
Core partner agencies are: Legal-aid Services, Intervention Crisis and Advocacy Network, CART (Child Abuse Response Team) House, Cheyenne – Arapaho Tribes, Canadian County Sheriff’s Office, and other law enforcement agencies.
“They all have agreed to commit their resources, their personnel and their expertise in bringing this to one location,” Chandler added.
The good work that Cardinal Point is doing in the community for domestic violence survivors was highlighted during the April 20th Yukon City Council study session.
“When you’re a person who’s experienced these crimes, oftentimes you’re not sure which place to go first,” Chandler told city officials and citizens. “This (Cardinal Point) is one place that people can go where there are multiple agencies to assist if they have that need.”
During her presentation, Cardinal Point’s director recognized several Yukon city leaders who participated in strategic planning meetings during fall 2019 after a Canadian County family justice center was first proposed.
‘SO UNIQUE, WONDERFUL’
Yukon Mayor Shelli Selby is a huge advocate for Cardinal Point, saying the center is “so unique and wonderful.”
“I am so thankful we have this and it’s offered to our citizens,” said Selby, who invited Cardinal Point representatives to speak to the Yukon City Council.
“Before, a victim who already was struggling to survive would have to go to this building, or this agency,” she shared. “You’re already beaten down. … (Cardinal Point) is altogether in one building.”
Chandler thanked Yukon Police Chief John Corn and Deputy Police Chief Mike Roach who were among audience members at the April 20th city council study session in the Centennial Building, 12 S 5th.
“The Yukon Police Department has been an amazing contributor and collaborator with us as we work to help people in our community who experience domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and child abuse,” the director said.
Cardinal Point and its resource partners are working to meet each client’s basic needs while providing long-term support and sustainability.
Chandler shared the story of one of Cardinal Point’s first clients, a Yukon woman who faced homelessness after leaving her previous home due to domestic violence. Child Welfare also had to take custody of her child.
“We cannot have safe children if we do not have safe homes,” Chandler noted. “This mom was fleeing to try to get to safety, but she was left in the garage at one of her friend’s. So, one of the things she needed was a roof over her head.
“Youth & Family Services in El Reno was able to house her. She’s now at her own apartment, she is employed with a good job and is well on her way to getting custody of her child back.”
Regular hours at Cardinal Point are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but staff will stay late to help as needed.
‘IT’S ALL AROUND US’
Yukon’s Heidi Oliver, secretary of Cardinal Point’s board of trustees, is a 22-year survivor of domestic violence.
During the April 20th Cardinal Point presentation, Oliver explained why she started talking about her experience.
“I decided to tell my story so that I could make a difference in the lives of others, and really help those that are suffering,” said Oliver, a former public-school teacher. “As you know, domestic violence is all around us. It’s in your neighborhood, it’s at your schools, it’s students in their classroom.
“When I was a victim, there wasn’t a place for me to go. I had a loving family to stand by me, but I was not aware of where to go or what to do.”
Many domestic abuse and sexual assault victims are still unsure where to turn for help and support.
In Canadian County, Oliver wants parents and children who are suffering to know that place is Cardinal Point’s new family justice center.
“It’s so important to have this one location where all of our partners are together,” she said. “Where we can take that person who’s in the lowest point in their life, and we can walk them through that door where all the services are provided for them.”
Since Canadian County’s juvenile center is open 24 hours, Cardinal Point can help domestic violence victims whenever needed.
Chandler is well pleased to be on the juvenile center’s campus, which also provides a copious quantity of helpful resources.
“All of us working together, we’re better together,” she noted. “That’s why we’re doing this initiative.”
Funding to operate Cardinal Point is primarily through a federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant, not tax dollars.
Canadian County Commissioners did provide funds in this year’s general fund budget to help with start-up costs until other outside grants are obtained.
Cardinal Point is open to anyone in Canadian County.
“We do understand that men experience these crimes as well,” Chandler said. “We want everyone to feel welcome.”