HOULTON, Maine — When the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians Domestic Violence Response Program officially opened its shelter for battered women and their children last October, it was full of residents even before an opening ceremony could be held.
With the facility remaining full and the need for services apparent, the tribe applied for and received federal stimulus funding to enhance the facility.
The shelter, named Nuhkomoss Wik, is Maliseet for “my grandmother’s house.” The shelter for battered women and their children sleeps 10 people and is housed in a manufactured home that was purchased with help from a U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women grant.
Jane Root, director of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians Domestic Violence Response Program, said the funding will help make the shelter more secure, in part by allowing the tribe to put a fence around the shelter’s perimeter. New doors also will help, and work soon will begin to make the facility more accessible to people with disabilities.
Funds also will be used to start a transitional housing program for women at the shelter.
Root said Tuesday that women in the shelter who enroll in the transitional program will be given housing assistance, child care, career benefits and other assistance for six months.
“This will allow these women to get back on their feet,” she said. “They can get assistance looking for a job, with child care, and they can get set up in their own place so that they can move on with their lives.”
The federal stimulus package has provided the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women with $2.8 million for the Tribal Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalitions Program. That program provides resources for organizing and supporting efforts to end violence against American Indian women and provides technical assistance to member programs. The award period is 24 months.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the funding is crucial to securing the safety of American Indian women.
“American Indian and Alaska Native women are more likely to experience sexual assault and domestic violence than women from other racial or ethnic groups, which is why these funds are so vital,” Holder said.
Root said the transitional program would begin immediately. She pointed out that she already has three women ready to enroll in the program.
“This money is really going to benefit our program and we are so happy to receive it,” she said Tuesday.