Agency STEPS up amid closure of Madeline’s House

Published 8:00 am Thursday, February 9, 2023

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Since the closing of a local domestic violence shelter, STEPS, Inc., the Farmville based Community Action Agency, is taking steps to help those in need.

As part of that, Shawn M. Rozier, Vice-President of Housing with STEPS, addressed the Lunenburg Board of Supervisors in January, asking that the county’s annual donation of $2,000 to Madeline’s House be transferred to STEPS.

Board members unanimously approved the request.

According to Rozier, STEPS has been providing transportation to other shelters and temporary accommodation for domestic violence since the close of Madeline’s House in November.

“We are currently utilizing homeless funds to help with this and those funds will be exhausted in February,” Rozier said during his address.

Madeline’s House was founded in 1999 by the Southside Center for Violence Prevention (SCVP), named in honor of a local woman Madeline Gearheart Mitchell who her abusive husband killed. Funded mainly by government grants, the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) had been collaborating with SCVP to address several issues to guarantee compliance with those grants.

Trouble for Madeline’s House began last March when the DCJS suspended funds.

On June 18, the DCJS announced they decided to end their funding of domestic violence and sexual violence programs served by SCVP.

In an Aug. 1 Facebook post, SCVP posted a lengthy press release stating that citing a single, isolated complaint from an employee at a hospital interacting with an SCVP victim advocate led to the withdrawal of funding.

“DCJS suspended SCVP funds and later made this decision permanent. SCVP repeatedly tried to communicate with DCJS regarding the agency’s concerns and SCVP’s willingness to take corrective actions to address these concerns, to no avail.” the post stated.

The post further stated, “Since SCVP first learned of the DCJS concerns, SCVP fully investigated the allegation and conducted additional training for all staff on confidentiality, accompaniment of victims of violence, and working with allied professionals, despite information that SCVP’s existing training met or exceeded that done by other service providers.

Ultimately, DCJS expressed concerns that SCVP had a small Board of Directors, lacked a breadth and depth of non-grant, and financial support, failed to show we had the support and approval of our local communities, did not serve enough victims of violence in our community, and did not have financial controls that would satisfy DCJS, contrary to the findings of an external, financial audit of our agency by a reputable accounting firm. SCVP.”

According to Madeline’s House officials, despite COVID challenges, as they neared the end of its fiscal year, they had helped nearly 90 victims.

“We have also sheltered more victims, 70, provided more bed nights, over 2,000, and provided more hours of advocacy, over 300, than we have in the previous two fiscal years. In fact, compared to the past ten years, we have seen our fourth-highest level of shelter clients served and the fourth-highest number of bed nights this year,” the Facebook post stated.

Without funding, Madeline’s House ultimately closed in November, leaving STEPS the job of helping domestic and sexual violence victims in its serving area of Amelia, Buckingham, Cumberland, Lunenburg, Nottoway and Prince Edward Counties.

“We wholly disagree with these assessments by DCJS but were never provided any opportunity to present the evidence SCVP has to the members of the Criminal Justice Services Board that ultimately voted to withdraw these valuable funds from the Southside community,” the SCVP posted on its social media.