SIKESTON - Fines and forfeitures by criminals in federal court are helping crime victims in Southeast Missouri.
Missouri received over $7.4 million in Victim of Crime Act grants with monies going to local agencies funding advocates and shelter for those victimized by criminals.
Andrea Story, crisis intervention specialist/case manager for the House of Refuge for Abused and Battered Women in Sikeston, described the $42,798 in funding through VOCA as "keeping the doors open. This is our biggest grant."
The money will be used for crisis intervention, the hotline, emergency services, assistance in filing compensation claims and other programs offered through the shelter, Story said.
The only domestic service provider in Scott and New Madrid counties, Story said the House of Refuge stays busy. During September, the facility recorded 115 bed nights for women and 174 bed nights for children along with 17 hotline calls.
"We are very appreciative of this funding, it is a huge part of keeping us running," Story said.
She noted the House of Refuge recently received an additional $20,000 in funds through the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation. This money can be used "for whatever hole we need to fill," Story said, explaining it was a general funding grant to provide for the needs of local domestic violence survivors and their families. The House of Refuge was one of six in the state to receive the funding from the Foundation.
The state funneled $31,967.50 in federal money to Scott County, which will be used to pay the salary and some of the expenses of Samantha Hedge, who serves as a crime victim advocate. Hedge was hired as the advocate by Scott County Prosecutor Paul Boyd on Sept. 12.
While the advocate is available to work with all victims of crimes, Boyd said he hopes to particularly focus on victims of domestic violence.
"We want her to make contact with the victims in these cases and assist them through the court process," said Boyd. "We want to break the cycle of abuse we see so repeating through the court system."
As part of the grant the prosecutor said the county will provide an in-kind match through volunteers from Southeast Missouri State University, who will assist with the crime victim advocate's efforts.
New Madrid County was awarded $25,000 which will be used to fund the Victim's Advocate Office overseen by Patty Moody.
According to Moody the funds will be used to cover costs of operating the office which provides assistance to victims of domestic violence and other crimes.
"The money is essential for the program to continue in New Madrid County," said Moody. "I think it has helped a lot of victims."
Now in its fourth year, the office also provides information about crime victim's compensation, assists victims in filing criminal charges along with assisting victims through the court process and keeping them informed, she said.
The Susanna Wesley Family Center in East Prairie is receiving $43,374 through the programs. Officials at the center were not available for comment.
In all, Missouri received over $7.4 million in the Victims of Crime Act grant funding. The money was distributed to 121 victim service agencies in the state.
In a news release announcing the funding Gov. Matt Blunt voiced his support for the agencies and organizations which serve Missourians who have been victimized.
"An important part of the justice process is making sure victims are not forgotten," he said. "It is only fitting that the funds for this grant come from court fees and fines levied on offenders."