July 29, 2011 —
A four-year, $1.38 million project to build new homes for domestic violence survivors in Morehead concluded Tuesday with the dedication of six new apartment units.
Representatives from the Kentucky General Assembly, federal, state and local financiers and housing advocates joined with domestic violence agencies to celebrate the completion of the apartments, all of which are now occupied.
“There were many twists and turns that happen when you build a project like this, and I’m thrilled to be here to celebrate this unique partnership,” said Mary O’Doherty, economic empowerment director at the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association.
O’Doherty thanked legislators, the Federation of Appalachian Housing Enterprises (FAHE), The Housing Partnership, architect Jim Burris and local financing agencies for bringing the vision of supportive housing in Morehead to fruition.
The six apartments were built adjacent to the DOVES of Gateway residential shelter, which house survivors of domestic violence. DOVES Executive Director Patricia Collinsworth said the apartments represent the will and determination of the DOVES board of directors and staff and the efforts of many community partners.
“Vision is being able to see past the obvious,” Collinsworth said.
“We already had the concrete space to build on, and we knew we wanted the space to be used for housing and for education, substance abuse, health and financial counseling classes.”
Collinsworth said the DOVES Board of Directors seized upon that vision and purposed to turn it into something real.
“If you want to get something done, get one of us or all of us behind it. The board and the staff of DOVES have never disappointed me.”
Collinsworth also surprised DOVES board of directors chairperson Brenda Jones with a plaque designating the new apartments as the “Brenda Jones Homes for Families,” in honor of Jones’ longtime work with the shelter.
Sen. Walter Blevins served as master of ceremonies for the dedication. He recalled his own experiences growing up in a home with violence.
“I am child of that kind of family, and it was a tough situation for me,” he said.
He said both parents were abusive to each other but “eventually my father stopped drinking and corrected his ways.”
Blevins said alcohol and drugs play a role in many domestic violence situations, and emphasized the importance of shelters and supportive housing to help families overcome violence and move on with their lives.
Blevins introduced other members of the Kentucky General Assembly, each of whom praised supportive housing projects as the way forward for domestic violence survivors.
“In the end, it’s not about what kind of car a person drives or how much money they have or don’t have, it’s how you treat people,” said Rep. John Will Stacy.
“People have troubles and need help from time to time. We are with you because you recognize that,” Stacy told the audience.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo said domestic violence advocacy has come a long way since his first experiences as a Floyd County prosecuting attorney.
“Back then, we may have been able to impose criminal sanctions on abusers, but the victims had nowhere to go,” Stumbo said.
“Today, projects like this show survivors that they don’t have to go back, they can move forward.”
Stumbo told the audience that the legislature passed “Amanda’s Law” in 2010 to give victims greater protections.
Amanda’s Law was named after Amanda Ross, who was killed in 2009 by former state representative Steve Nunn. The law allows judges to order perpetrators to wear GPS tracking devices that monitor their proximity to victims.
Stumbo said the challenge is now for courts to utilize the system. He said the supportive housing project, Amanda’s Law and other advocacy efforts in the state have done much to protect survivors and help them move forward.
The Morehead project is one of three domestic violence supportive housing programs throughout the state that use tax credits, federal stimulus funds and local lenders to build permanent housing units.
O’Doherty said the project, which began in 2007, was a unique partnership that utilized tax credits, federal stimulus funds, private financing and combined KDVA expertise and resources to build the first set of apartments.
“We received tax credits through the Kentucky Housing Corporation,” O’Doherty said.
“We approached our board of directors and told them we had tax credits to build income-based housing that would help women and their families transition to self-sufficiency,” she added.
Kentucky Housing Corporation is the state’s housing finance agency. CEO Richard McQuady said their research and experience clearly demonstrated that homelessness was the number one trait associated with domestic violence. O’Doherty said it was KHC initiative, and stimulus money from the Obama administration, that pulled the project from drawing board to construction.
Each person who spoke at the dedication credited O’Doherty with keeping the project going when the housing market bottomed out.
“She’s an excellent cat herder,” said The Housing Partnership CEO Mike Hines, a reference to the inherent difficulties associated with coordinating local, state and federal agencies and resources to bring the project to completion.
O’Doherty, in turn, praised FAHE for staying the course when other investors backed out. Sara Morgan, FAHE chief investment officer, said her agency stepped in when the market crashed and was able to secure funds at terms and rates that most banks perceived as too risky.
Rep. Rocky Adkins concluded the ceremony with a history lesson.
“Former first lady Judy Patton was a force behind what we are celebrating here today,” he said.
“She pushed for legislation and programs to help domestic violence victims. One piece of legislation formed the KDVA.”
Adkins urged those in attendance to continue their work on behalf of victims, and to include the legislature in their efforts.
“We are always here for you,” he said.
Noelle Hunter can be reached at nhunter@ themoreheadnews.com or by telephone at 784-4116.