NAMPA — In just 10 years, the Nampa Family Justice Center has seen a nearly 270% increase in the number of clients it serves. The center is on track to serve more than 5,000 people this year, up from 1,500 in 2009.
“I know that even though our numbers are really high, it’s not because (domestic violence) is happening more, it’s because people know to come here for services,” said Criselda DeLaCruz-Valdez, the center’s executive director.
The Nampa Family Justice Center provides all of the services victims of domestic, child or elder abuse might need. Services include counseling, assistance in filing protection orders, forensic and sexual assault exams, and safety planning. The center provides resources to victims such as gas cards, emergency housing or funding to change locks on a house.
The Nampa center started as one of 15 in the nation in 2003. There are now 106 family justice centers.
The Nampa Family Justice Center and its model has been viewed by three state’s looking for information on how to start and run a family justice center, DeLaCruz-Valdez said.
The center is only one of 13 accredited in the nation as a family justice center and a child advocacy center.
Though the center is in Nampa, it serves people from surrounding cities, as far as Middleton or Wilder.
In 2019 through August, the center had served 4,100 people. In the month of August, the majority of clients, 392, were from Nampa. Another 73 came from outside of the city; of those, 16 were from Caldwell, and 22 came from Ada County.
The center employs 28 people; most of their positions are funded through grants. Only three employees’ salaries are paid by the city, DeLaCruz-Valdez said.
It’s through partnerships with other agencies — like Idaho Behavioral Health, which provides counseling — they’re able to serve so many clients.
The partnership model works well in Nampa, DeLaCruz-Valdez said. It could work in other states, too.
“People get territorial and they get into their own disagreements. You just can’t have that. You have to be in it for the clients and provide the service regardless of who is steering the wheel. That works here, it really does,” she said.
The center is operating on roughly a $925,000 budget. Funding can be a regular challenge, as the majority of the budget comes through state and federal grants. Twenty-five percent of the funding comes through the city budget. The county contributes roughly $20,000.
What’s really missing, DeLaCruz-Valdez said, is a shelter in Nampa for domestic violence victims.
There are domestic violence shelters in Boise through the Women’s and Children’s Alliance and in Caldwell at the Advocates Against Family Violence Hope’s Door Shelter.
Hope’s Door, DeLaCruz-Valdez said, is usually at capacity.
She recalled in the early 1980s living in Canyon County in a home with domestic violence, and there was a shelter in Nampa her mom and siblings would use. Valley Crisis Center used to be in place for women and children leaving domestic situations, but in 2013, it lost grant funding and shuttered, according to a previous Idaho Press report.
The Nampa Family Justice Center is working with the Salvation Army in the winter months to shelter some clients, but that is only a small number of beds. The Boise Rescue Mission operates two shelters in Nampa — the Valley Women’s and Children Shelter and the Lighthouse Rescue Mission — but they serve individuals experiencing homelessness and are not geared toward victims of abuse.
“We definitely need another shelter, and it would be great if we could provide that service,” DeLaCruz-Valdez said.
In 2018 through the first week of this year, the Treasure Valley saw several fatal domestic attacks. In that year’s time, 11 people died in the Treasure Valley in domestic murder-suicides, the Idaho Press previously reported. One of those deaths was a Nampa woman, Kymberlee Larsen. She had recently left her boyfriend and was staying at a family member’s house, where he fatally attacked her, and injured her sister and mother.
DeLaCruz-Valdez, not referencing that case specifically, said the center’s clients need to have an option for safe shelter during the day.
“We need an all-day shelter,” she said, “to keep them safe and out of the public eye.”