UPTOWN — Despite the state budget problems that have left social service providers to fend for themselves for more than a year, an Uptown women's shelter for domestic violence victims has found a way to expand.
At a ribbon cutting Monday afternoon attended by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Ald. James Cappleman (46th), the staff at Apna Ghar showed off its new facility, which will double its capacity to serve victims of domestic violence.
"Because of the situation in Springfield, domestic violence programs like Apna Ghar and all 62 other programs in the State of Illinois are suffering," said First Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Family and Support Services Jennifer Welch at the opening event Monday. "Despite that crisis, Apna Ghar is still doing this important work and still even managing to grow."
In Chicago, 19 domestic violence programs are currently without funding and Apna Ghar is owed more than $200,000 through its state contract, she said.
The program was founded in 1989 by five Asian-American women who established a crisis line to address the needs of immigrant survivors of gender-based violence. Since then, Apna Ghar has developed programs to address the cultural, linguistic, legal and institutional barriers that immigrant and refugee survivors face, according to a press release.
Its programs include: a 24-hour crisis line, an emergency shelter, counseling, case management, legal advocacy, supervised visitation and safe exchange, along with outreach and education.
Before the new facility was built, the program could serve about 15 people at a time. The new facility can serve about 30 people, and includes better security and new offices, said outgoing president of Apna Ghar Saiyed Rabbani.
While the program was able to raise funds without the state's help through individual donors and corporate donations, the program already has a waiting list, he said.
"The good news is we did increase the capacity, and the bad news is it will immediately be filled," said Emanuel, applauding the program for its strides "under tremendous strain."
"It's time for the state to step up and do their responsibility, because there are mothers with children who are dependent on this type of care to escape the violence that they feel trapped in," he said.
Immigrant survivors of domestic violence often face isolation, fear, restrictive immigration laws and language barriers that often prevent them from speaking up, which makes this facility even more important in Uptown, an ethnically diverse area "where over 91 different languages are spoken," said Cappleman. "This allows them a safe space to get back on their [feet]."
Hundreds of domestic violence victims are turned away from shelters each month, he said, adding that this facility will help ease that burden and allow victims "to get back to that role of being that protector, provider and nurturer of their children."
In 2016, Apna Ghar provided legal advocacy for 191 women and children, counseling for 204 women and children and supervised visitation for 339 families, according to a release.
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