The clock is now ticking for the Peace House to obtain property for its soon-to-be-constructed transitional housing. With the approval of the county's Peace House Transitional Housing Plan, the non-profit group has a vision for what it will provide.
With the approval earlier this year of the 23,500 square foot Tanger Outlets expansion, $960,490 is to be paid by developers to Summit County, which will hold the funds until Peace House can meet these deadlines:
Property for transitional housing must be acquired prior to March 1, 2015
All regulatory approvals for transitional housing must be approved prior to March 1, 2016
Construction on transitional housing must commence prior to March 1, 2017
Small changes were made to the county's plan last week, such as allowing the county in future instances to give such funds to housing "uses" instead of "organizations." Peace House will also need to possess enough of their own funds to finish the project before the money is given to them, Patten said.
Patten envisions a Peace House campus, which would contain transitional housing (where victims of domestic violence could stay for six months to two years), a shelter (an average stay of 30 days) and a facility to provide support services such as counseling.
Peace House's current shelter is in an undisclosed location, for safety purposes, and Patten said this new campus would have many benefits.
"Having [the shelter] known to the public provides someone who may need our shelter in the future [the ability] to know where it is and to know that it's not scary and unknown," Patten said.
Transitional housing is sorely needed in the community, Patten says, because a victim of domestic violence cannot "turn their life around in 30 days." It would provide a feeling of greater independence for victims and their families as well as more space and dignity, she added.
The current shelter operated by Peace House was built 19 years ago through a grassroots effort and is licensed to house up to 15 individuals, though it only features five bedrooms and one kitchen.
"Imagine five families sharing one kitchen, with all of them in trauma," Patten said.
Peace House is actively looking at properties to purchase in the county, but with the following stipulations: it must be three to five acres, be near a bus stop, have space for children to play outside and be in an appropriately zoned parcel.
The transitional housing would feature a bedroom for the parent, bedrooms for children, a small living space, potentially a small cooking area, laundry facilities, a common kitchen and a meeting room for visitors, Patten said.
"We don't want it to have a commercial or institutional look to it," Patten said. "We want it to have the look of a nice home."
Individuals staying in transitional housing could also participate in a buy-in program in which they pay a portion of their income as rent if they have adequate employment.
Having been in the process of trying to pursue transitional housing for three years, Peace House and Patten are grateful for Tanger's willingness to work with them on the project and dedicate housing funds to them.
Patten is also dedicated to the purpose that Peace House serves in the community.
"The people that come to us for help are extremely brave. It's hard to break out of an abusive relationship," Patten said. "It's not just physical safety we're providing them, it's the ability to deal with the trauma of domestic abuse."
For more information on the Peace House, visit peacehouse.org.